by By Sarah J.F. Braley | October 29, 2009

According to Unite Here, the union representing hotel employees, members working at five Starwood properties in Chicago  -- the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, Westin Michigan Avenue, W Lakeshore, W Chicago-City Center and Tremont Hotel -- voted to authorize a strike by an 89 percent majority. The vote authorizes the bargaining committee to call a strike, if necessary. A union spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune that if contract negotiations drag on, similar votes could take place at downtown Hyatt and Hilton hotels. Union contracts covering 6,000 workers at 31 hotels in downtown Chicago expired on Aug. 31. The spokesperson said Starwood was pinpointed because it has been particularly vocal in blaming the economy for cutbacks, an argument the union has criticized. He added that health-insurance guidelines proposed by Starwood would mean about 50 percent of hotel workers would no longer be eligible for coverage. Jim Franczek, Starwood's chief negotiator, told the paper that hotels have been hard hit by the recession.