Tuesday, February 14, 2006

HERE side better than UNITE side. Hands Down

Hotel workers union plans rallies
BY FRANCINE KNOWLES
Chicago Sun-Times

In what's billed as the biggest single year ever for collective bargaining in the hotel industry, the union representing thousands of workers at hotels in downtown Chicago and nationally said it is kicking off a campaign this week to boost pay and benefits and spotlight safety issues.

More than 500 hotels employing more than 50,000 workers in seven major key markets, including Chicago, will be involved in contract talks this year, according to UNITE HERE, the merged union of the Union of Needletrade, Industrial and Textile Employees and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union.

Locally, talks will affect roughly 7,000 housekeepers, bell staff and restaurant workers at 30 hotels in downtown Chicago and near O'Hare airport, where workers in 2002 narrowly averted a strike.

Nationwide "Hotel Workers Rising" rally tours with participation by former U.S. Sen. John Edwards and actor Danny Glover will begin in San Francisco on Wednesday with a stop scheduled for Friday in Chicago, where contracts expire in August. Stops are also planned in Los Angeles and Boston.

Besides those cities, contracts will be negotiated this year in Toronto, Honolulu and New York.

The talks will put the spotlight on UNITE HERE, one of four unions that split with the AFL-CIO last year to help form a new labor federation because of disagreements over organizing, leadership and strategy.

The talks are "an opportunity for us to talk to the hotel industry about creating middle-class jobs," said Henry Tamarin, president of UNITE HERE Local 1 in Chicago, where the average hourly wage of hotel house- |keepers is $11.75. "What we're talking about is how we make these jobs good jobs, jobs that support families.

". . . The issues of affordable quality health care, of retirement with dignity. These are the issues we'll be pursuing in Chicago."


He added safety will also be a priority. As hotels have added more amenities, including heavier mattresses and linens, that has led to worker injuries, union representatives say -- assertions that have been disputed by the industry.

Francine Jones, who has worked for 15 years as a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, said those are among her concerns along with work loads and staffing levels. She said the additional amenities mean it takes longer than the 30 minutes each allotted to clean the 16 rooms she's assigned, and makes it difficult for her and co-workers to meet their room quotas.

"We went from two pillows to eight. More linens, sheets, blankets," she said. "It requires more time in the room."

Continued...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

what the hell does "HERE side better than UNITE side. Hands Down" mean? Hasn't HERE historically been owned by the mob, isn't HERE still connected to organized crime especially in Chicago. Weren't HERE union bosses guilty of stealing from their various pension funds? I think it was UNITE that has a militant history that dates back to the early 1900's as a radical union. HERE was and AFL union and actually the only reason why they were able to survive financially was because of UNITE and it's vast resources. Before you start to post things with asinine tag lines learn your history.

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