Chicago Indymedia :
Chicago Indymedia

News :: [none]

Unions Flexing Bargaining Muscles

Business trumpet sounds warning that workers are restless and that hotel workers militancy and resulting gains could be a signal to others. Labor "expert" misses only readiness to strike as reason for victory.
September 09, 2002
Unions flex bargaining muscles
By Bob Tita

Company managers, already vexed by sluggish profits and cost-cutting, have something else to worry about: a resurgent labor movement. The Hotel and Restaurant Employees union’s victory over nearly 30 local hotels is seen as a sign that organized labor is becoming more aggressive during these fiscally tight times, and that its rank-and-file membership is willing to be more combative with management than before.

Moreover, the hotel workers’ ability to win significant wage and benefit concessions could open up other service businesses to more labor organizing efforts. Those in the hotel workers union reflect growing constituencies within the workforce, including minorities, first-generation immigrants and women.

Meanwhile, established local unions are flexing their muscles, too. Last week, the Chicago Teachers Union won a major concession from the Chicago Public Schools on the issues eligible for upcoming negotiations on a new teachers contract, while United Airlines’ pilots and mechanics unions gave their stamp of approval to a new CEO.

“There is a generation of workers who have never known a recession before,” says Patricia Simpson, assistant professor of industrial relations at Loyola University Chicago. “The experience of vulnerability is leading to interest in collective bargaining to decrease that vulnerability.”

Ms. Simpson attributes the hotel workers’ success to revamped union leadership that instituted more democratic decision-making and allied the union with religious, political and community organizations that already serve the mostly low-income immigrants and minorities who make up the union’s membership.

For years, the hotel workers union had been considered one of the most insular in Chicago under former President Thomas Hanley, who was forced from office by accusations of financial improprieties, but was never charged with wrongdoing. Union members complained that the management-friendly contracts negotiated under Mr. Hanley’s watch caused Chicago hotel workers to be among the lowest paid of big-city hotel employees.

The new four-year contract negotiated by new President Henry Tamarin provides workers with annual increases in wages and benefits averaging more than 11%, including an immediate $1.17-an-hour raise for workers who don’t typically receive tips. The new contract also slices workers’ health insurance premiums for family coverage 65% by the end of the contract. Also included is job protection for workers involved in immigration disputes and paid time off to become a U.S. citizen.

With about half the full-service hotels in the Chicago area non-union, union leaders are counting on the new contract to help attract new members.

“The time is right to organize,” says Bill Biggerstaff, secretary-treasurer for Local 450, which represents suburban hotel workers. "People are going to see the benefits package that's out there and they’re going to say: 'Why not me?'"



Account Login

Media Centers


This site made manifest by dadaIMC software