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Congress Hotel Workers Mark Ninth Anniversary Of Strike

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 18, 2012 7:30PM

Hundreds of supporters gathered at the Congress Hotel Friday to support the 60 workers from UNITE HERE! Local 1 who have been on the picket line in front of the hotel for nine years. For about two hours, a diverse group of demonstrators gathered together to show support for the hotel workers strike, which according to organizers, is the longest in American history. The group was joined by local union musicians who provided a celebratory soundtrack for much of the demonstration, and later by hip hop artist Young General, who performed his song “No Justice, No Peace,” written about the striking workers, on a small stage sandwiched between several large “Scabby the Rat” inflatables.

While some have highlighted the length of the strike as an example of a futile fight, workers on the ground and their supporters are undeterred. Many said at the demonstration the length and resolve of the striking Congress workers emboldened other striking hotel workers and other union workers in Chicago. Mario Moreno, who worked at the Congress Hotel for nine years before the strike began in 2003 said “If we quit with the strike now, we quit the fight to ensure hotel jobs in the city are good, family sustaining jobs. The biggest injustices can’t be solved in a day. They take time.” Another demonstrator said “They don’t understand our fight isn’t just for us, but for the entire working class in Chicago.”

UNITE HERE! Local 1 President Henry Tamarin echoed that sentiment several times, first addressing the younger members of the crowd saying “Given what’s been going on in society lately, I’m sad to say this is not going to be your last picket line” and later saying “people have figured out that the owner of the Congress Hotel is a stubborn man. We’re just as stubborn.”

At present, workers are fighting for what they call a fair wage increase that would be comparable with the rest of what hotel workers in Chicago make. According to representatives from UNITE HERE!, Chicago housekeepers make an average of around $15 an hour. Workers at the Congress made $8.83 an hour when the strike began, and according to strikers, the last time they sat down with representatives from the hotel last year, they were only offered around a ten cent an hour pay increase.

While the workers remain hopeful that a resolution will come, they also say they wouldn’t be surprised if the strike continued to drag on. At the end of the programming in front of the hotel supporters loudly chanted “we’ll be back.”