In my article about health care this morning, I mentioned that contracts for workers at several of the city's hotels expire today.
In past years, labor unions and managers at the hotels have been able to iron out new contracts before or shortly after their old ones expire. But that's not the case this time around, and union organizers are making that abundantly clear.
"We're not close," union spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel told me this morning. "We're hitting our deadline today at midnight, and we're not even close."
Strassel's union, U.N.I.T.E. H.E.R.E., represents about 6,000 workers at 30 downtown hotels where contracts expire this evening. Tomorrow morning, the group will hold a press conference to warn the hotels that nothing — not even a strike — is off the table now that the workers are off contract.
"The hotels are using the economy as an excuse to slow everything down," Strassel said. "We're willing to continue to negotiate, but at a certain point, we're going to hit a breaking point. Tomorrow's about putting the hotels on notice."
Strassel said the hotels are not only trying to cut medical benefits, but also overworking some employees as they lay off others.
"Quite frankly," she said, "I think the hotels are counting on people to be too scared for their jobs and too afraid to say anything, that they're just going to take it."
The press conference starts at 10 a.m. in front of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, near East Wacker Drive and Stetson Avenue. I'm reaching out to hotel managers for a response to the union's allegations, so look for a follow-up article in the afternoon.