After 18 months without a labor contract, Hilton workers in Chicago have voted to settle on a four-year contract that maintains benefits at current levels and offers modest raises.
Hilton is the first major hotel chain in Chicago to settle with the union in the heated negotiation process which has brought months of picketing, temporary strikes, demonstrations and boycotts to some of the largest hotels in Chicago.
“We are pleased to have achieved a fair settlement for all sides — one that allows workers to move forward and share in the robust recovery that the hotel industry is experiencing,” said John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here. “We applaud Hilton for leading the way and upholding a decent standard for service workers in the hospitality industry.”
Approximately 8,000 workers have been without contracts since August 2009. As with the last contract negotiations in 2006, the union is negotiating with the large hotel chains separately rather than as a group. The Hilton settlement – voted on Friday — gives contracts to 1,600 workers from the Drake, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago Hilton and Hilton O’Hare.
Here Local 1 spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel said the union had a major win in negotiations over the number of rooms that each housekeeper is assigned to clean. Hilton had proposed that workers clean more rooms under a program called “Refresh” that gave housekeepers a curtailed task list for rooms that needed only to be refreshed rather than completely remade.
Under the new contract, employees will clean the same number of rooms as under the old contract, a number Strassel said works out to be about 16 rooms per day. A room attendant making $14.60 per hour will earn $16.40 an hour by the contract’s end, she said. The contract also maintains current health benefits, she said — $30 per month for family coverage with no additional out-of-pocket expenses or reduction in benefits. Employees also cannot receive overtime when other similar employees are temporarily laid off and available to work, according to the union.
A Hilton spokesman was not immediately available for comment. Workers in San Francisco and Honolulu will vote on similar settlements this week, according to the union.
Contracts affecting 1,800 Hyatt employees and 4,600 workers at Starwood properties and other smaller hotels are still unsettled. Unite Here Local 1 spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel said those negotiations are still far from over.
“We have some work to do there,” she said.