Kinzie Hotel workers protest lockout of 12 employees on Labor Day

ByMichelle Gallardo and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Monday, September 4, 2023
Chicago hotel workers protest lockout of 12 employees on Labor Day
Some workers at Chicago's Kinzie Hotel in River North have been protesting what they say is illegal retaliation on Labor Day.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Union leaders said the lockout is illegal because their members are not on strike.

They called the Kinzie Hotel's actions "retaliatory," but hotel management says otherwise.

Taking to the sidewalk in front of River North's Kinzie Hotel, dozens of union workers rallied on Monday morning, protesting what they say is the illegal lockout of 12 employees who, they said, last week, held informational pickets after their contract expired on Aug. 31.

"Kinzie Hotel, you think you locked out 12? You locked out a million. Because, when you turned your back on them, you turned your back on labor," said Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 Second Vice President Corliss King.

A longtime employee at the Kinzie Hotel, Jose Sanchez is one of the 12 workers. Sanchez said when he returned to work following the picket, he was greeted with a letter, stating that he was being replaced.

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"We feel bad, because we have to support our family. We have people, have kids in university. We are in shock. We don't know what happened," Sanchez said.

The letter, signed by the Kinzie Hotel's manager, accuses those impacted of engaging in a strike and picketing, something they say is not allowed under their collective bargaining agreement, adding, "You have an opportunity to apply for reinstatement after the strike. There is no guarantee that positions will be available, however."

"Retaliation against union workers for exercising their rights is absolutely unacceptable," said Illinois State Sen. Javier Cervantes .

Unite Here Local 1 represents over 15,000 hospitality employees across the city. Last month, the union ratified agreements with over 30 Chicago hotels. Their leadership claims the Kinzie Hotel's contract expired after agreeing to some of the terms, but not to others. But, in a statement Monday, the Kinzie Hotel contradicted the union, stating it is them who are holding up the agreement.

"The Kinzie Hotel agreed to each and every term proposed by the union before the agreement expired, including the increased compensation that matches all of the other hotels. We value all of our employees," the statement said.

The hotel's management would not further address what will happen to the 12 workers that have been locked out. They did state that they are hoping an agreement can be reached with the union during their next scheduled talks.