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Was It Worth It? After 10 Years On Strike, Hotel Union Throws In The Towel

Strikers to return under the terms of their 2003 contract

After 10 years of picketing and rowdy rallies outside a downtown Chicago hotel, UNITE-HERE has decided to call off its decade-long strike.

Congress Hotel Strike

On Father’s Day, 2003, UNITE-HERE went out on strike against the Congress Hotel when the hotel’s owner refused to agree to the union’s demand to accept the same (pattern) contract it demanded of all Chicago-area hotels.

During the ten years the union was on strike, the union engaged in a vicious campaign to try to get the hotel’s owner to capitulate.

In 2007, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama visited the union’s picket lines, vowing to return after he was elected President as well as rewrite the nation’s labor laws to make it difficult to replace strikers. [Note: He hasn't done either...yet.]

In 2010, when a convention was scheduled to take place at the hotel, the union “sent cow manure in heart-shaped packages to scientists to discourage them from attending a convention there.”

Last year, on the strike’s ninth anniversary, Henry Tamarin, UNITE-HERE’s Chicago local union boss, vowed never to give up.

“We’re not going any place, we’re still here and we’re going to be loud and proud at our protests,” said Local 1 president Henry Tamarin.

On Wednesday night, however, the union changed its mind.

An attorney for the hotel said Unite Here Local 1, the union representing cleaning and maintenance workers, has offered an unconditional return to work as of midnight Wednesday. The union confirmed Thursday morning that it is ending the strike.

“The decision to end the Congress strike was a hard one, but it is the right time for the union and the strikers to move on,” Unite Here Local 1 President Henry Tamarin said in a statement. “The boycott has effectively and dramatically reduced the hotel’s business. … There is no more to do there.”

Since there is no new contract, those striking workers who return to work will return under the same wages and benefits they were making in 2003 when they went out on strike–$8.83 per hour.

This means that, based on a strike calculator, at $8.83 per hour, striking workers lost approximately $18,366 in wages (only) for every year they were on strike–or $183,660 over the ten years. Union bosses leading the strike, however, maintained their salaries and benefits.

So, after ten years of striking, losing nearly $200,000 in wages, and no new contract to go back to work under, one must ask: Was it worth it?

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“Truth isn’t mean. It’s truth.”
Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)

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