Union workers at Hyatt O'Hare Regency hotel hit the picket lines early this morning after voting to strike over contract negotiations.
The O'Hare Regency is the only local hotel affected by the strike, but locations in Honolulu and Los Angeles are also striking in advance of the labor day weekend. Locations in Boston, Indianapolis and Toronto also have protests planned. Officials say the hotel chain has been asking for increased hours while cutting benefits. They're also upset that workers who were laid off before the recession haven't been re-hired.
"We would like to send a message to the company that we will refuse to abide into a recession contract," said Bill Biggerstaff of Local 450. "They want to give us more workloads and lock us into a cheap contract. The people at the Hyatt are angry."
UNITE HERE Local 450, the union that covers the Hyatt hotel, says the O'hare Regency workers and 8,000 other hotel workers in the Chicago-area have been working without a contract for about a year. Hotel workers from across the city have been staging minor demonstrations and walk-outs ever since their contract expired in August 2009, but this is the first work stoppage of this magnitude since then.
Some strikers aimed their words directly at their corporate bosses, the Pritzkers.
Hyatt, in a statement, expressed disappointment in the process.
"While we have come to expect a certain amount of union posturing during negotiations, we are disappointed that rather than engaging in productive negotiations at the bargaining table...the union is choosing instead to attempt to disrupt business at multiple Hyatt hotels," the company said. "This delay is unfortunate, and work actions are damaging to the still very fragile economy in our local communities."
The one-day strike became official at 6 a.m. and is scheduled to last through 10 p.m.
"The Pritzkers want everyone who works for them to feel llike family," one picketer said. "If I was part of that dysfunctional family y I wouldn't want to be part of it. "
"Were tired we can't take it no more," they chanted as the protested an expired contract with the hotel chain the day before a holiday weekend.