Union Contracts Expire in Chicago, Negotiations Progress Slowly

Last Tuesday, union contracts for approximately 6,000 hotel workers at more than 30 hotels in the downtown Chicago area expired. According to Unite Here Local 1, the workers' union representative, layoffs have resulted in excessive overtime hours for those workers still employed. Contract negotiations have begun, but little progress has been made, the union claimed. "We've actually gone backward since we first announced the contract expiration last week," said Annemarie Strassel, a spokesperson for Local 1. "For example, the current proposal put forth by Hyatt would gut workers' health insurance." Strassel noted that a strike has not been ruled out. In response to Unite Here's claims, a spokesperson for Hyatt said since negotiations began on Aug. 10, a total of four meetings have taken place. "The hotels have come to every discussion in good faith and will continue to do so," Hyatt said in a written statement. "We fully expect to come to an agreement with Unite Here without any labor disruption." Hyatt's statement also noted, "Like so many other employers across the country, we must manage rising health-care costs while continuing to provide the competitive benefits that attract great people." Negotiations will continue with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotels this week and next.