Palmer House Hilton workers carrying signs that read “Taxpayers on Strike.” walked off the job early Thursday morning to protest what they call a misappropriation of federal funds.
“Hilton got $180 million of our tax dollars to protect our jobs, but they keep squeezing us,” said Laticia Wilson, in a press release from Unite Here.
According to Unite Here Local 1, workers are outraged that Hilton Worldwide accepted $180 million in bailout funds from the federal government but have yet to renew a contract, with workers who have been without one for 15 months. Workers accuse Palmer House's managing corporation, Hilton Worldwide, of taking advantage of the workers during the recession.
"This has been going on over a year now and it’s just ridiculous,” said Brenda Clavelle-Ross, a striking worker.
Palmer House Hilton is just one of the many hotels managed by the international corporation facing workers crossing the picket line. Workers at Hiltons in Honolulu and San Francisco also planned similar strikes on Thursday.
“The message is we have been working here for awhile," said Dwayne Greer of Unite Here Local 1 in Chicago. "We want to keep our job. We come here everyday we put in our hard work and we just want to continue to do that.”
Hilton Hotels released a statement saying they will continue to operate normally. They hope Unite Here 1 will end the strike, which they feel was unneccesary.
"It is unfortunate that Local 1’s leadership has chosen to take this unnecessary step," the statement reads. "Union tactics such as work stoppages and demonstrations will do nothing to bring us closer to a new contract. They are harmful to employees, to the hospitality industry and to the City of Chicago. Instead of taking actions that drive business out of Chicago, Local 1 should return to the bargaining table so that we can resolve our differences.
Palmer House Hilton employees currently are paid competitive wages and enjoy many generous benefits, including fully paid health insurance with virtually no employee contribution. Hilton has offered to increase wages, to increase contributions to protect employee pensions, and to substantially increase its health fund contributions so that employees can continue to enjoy health care with virtually no employee contribution. Yet, even under current difficult economic conditions and with 10% unemployment, the union also continues to insist on unreasonable wage increases and several other very costly proposals."
In response to the strike, the American Sociological Association said it plans to move its 2011 meeting out of Chicago. The organization worries the ongoing hotel labor dispute could disrupt the event. The American Sociological Association was scheduled to meet August 13 through 16 of 2011. The one-day strike at 17 E. Monroe Street in Chicago follows a similar strike of other Chicago Hiltons two months ago.