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10-Year Strike Against Chicago Hotel Ends

May 31, 2013
Originally published on May 31, 2013 8:34 am



In Chicago, one of the longest labor strikes in U.S. history has finally come to an end. Hospitality workers at the Congress Plaza Hotel have put down their picket signs after almost 10 years.

But as Susie An reports from member station WBEZ, getting back on the job may not be so easy now that the strike is done.

SUSIE AN, BYLINE: The Congress Plaza hotel sits here on Chicago's famous Michigan Avenue, right across from Grant Park where big events like the Lollapalooza music festival are held. Every day for the past 10 years, at least a few picketers would be marching in front of this hotel in downtown Chicago. Today the entry way of this grand vintage looking hotel is clear.

PETER ANDJELKOVICH: We had no idea this was coming.

AN: That's Peter Andjelkovich, attorney for the hotel. He says management and the union haven't met since last summer.

ANDJELKOVICH: The ownership or the top management of the company's reaction is the same as mine - which is where did this come from and why? We're looking at the legal implications and again the logistical.

AN: One hundred thirty workers originally walked out in June of 2003 over wages and health benefits.

Unite Here Local 1 didn't want to go on tape for the story, but released a statement. It points out that when workers went on strike, the city-wide standard wage for a hotel room attendant was 8.83 an hour. Now it's 16.40, but the union says Congress Hotel workers still earn the 2003 standard. It says the hotel continues to treat customers and workers poorly and it doesn't think a new contract is possible. So it's time to move on.

About 60 striking workers already have other jobs. For the rest, the union's made an unconditional offer to return to work. Andjelkovich didn't want to disclose the Congress's wage range, but he says one thing is certain.

ANDJELKOVICH: From a legal standpoint, as if the workers were to come back to work, they're paid under the terms and conditions of the expired contract, which expired in 2002.

AN: He says he doesn't know how many jobs are open at the hotel and the union doesn't know how many want to go back.

For NPR News, I'm Susie An in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.