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I am a member of UNITE HERE local 1 in Chicago. For the last 2 ½ years I have been patiently waiting for our union to settle contract disputes with the hotel I work for. 1800 of us are.

When the contract first expired I was with the union, wanted to fight for pay increases and to make sure that the hotel didn’t implement a two tier healthcare system, where new employees would get a different level of care than those of us who were already here. The hotel caved and we won the increases, a year after the contract expired. UNITE HERE then presented us with another set of demands, including card check, stricter sub-contracting language and the right to continue to boycott during the contract period. These are not things I support, nor do many of my coworkers–but as I found out–the union doesn’t care what I want.

I started telling my reps last summer that I wanted the contract settled immediately. I was calm rational, and told the right people. They told me they don’t represent me, that I was the only one who felt that way, and if I wanted to change something I would need to start a petition.

In December management came to us after a negotiation meeting, telling us that our healthcare coverage was in jeopardy, and that they had offered to extend it as long as UNITE HERE agreed to end its boycott–UNITE HERE refused. At the end of January, management came to us again, it had decided to continue our coverage indefinitely, even though the union refused to end its boycott and blatantly put its own needs above the needs of its rank and file. As the meeting ended I was asked about a petition I had talked about circulating, forcing the union to represent us. I told everyone I would have it by noon. It was clear to everyone, from that moment, that UNITE HERE was more interested in its own agenda then its members, and maybe Hyatt wasn’t the demon they were making them out to be.

Not more than a day after I started gathering signatures on an open letter asking the union to represent us and sign the contract, the reps came out in full force telling people that they were not only signing their rights away, but going against everything they stood for. They intimidated a small number of people, and even worse, they convinced people that their voice would never be heard. Many gave up and resigned themselves to being tools for UNITE HERE’s propaganda machine.

UNITE HERE uses the tactics of fear, intimidation and coercion to keep the rank and file in check.

None of their arguments really added up for me so I read the contract for myself, many of us did. Whenever I asked for the union side of the contract I was told that someone would tell me about it, rather than letting me see for myself.  Completely dissatisfied, and armed with the support of my coworkers, I decided to attend the negotiation meeting–I was shocked and appalled by what went on in that room.

Henry Tamarin fired up his base by letting them know how Hyatt had been weakened, proudly talking about the NFL and 40 democratic congress people joining in with their boycott–he told his reps that their hard work had cost Hyatt approximately a million dollars in a month. When the caucus adjourned one of the reps from my hotel, a woman I work with every day, walked up to me, pointed her finger in my face and said that if I was going to be here, I would have to sit on the company side of the room. She told everyone who could hear her that I was only there to get a promotion, become a manager, have my write-ups removed and that Hyatt had put me up to this. I tried to tell her that what she was doing was intimidation, that I was there to represent my coworkers, the ones she refuses to see. But a small crowd had gathered and I had seven or eight hard core union reps yelling at me and telling me that no matter what they would continue fighting.

Hyatt and its lawyers were finally allowed in to the room, and the crowd was drawn off me. I did as I was told–took a seat behind the hotel’s managers and listened attentively, but nothing happened. No negotiating took place–there was only arguing about letting the rank and file have a vote on the proposed contract. Mr. Tamarin stated that when the employees get to vote for their managers he will let them vote for the contract.

Mr. Tamarin proved several times in the meeting that he not only wasn’t interested in negotiating but also had nothing to add. He presented no real offers and threw a temper tantrum when Hyatt asked to have a meeting in March, preferring not to wait til late April (the only date Mr. Tamarin was willing to accept).

Hyatt brought up the issue of pay increases and retro pay, Mr. Tamarin was all too happy to tell the hotel that they should grant the increases now (But if we get our increases without a contract, and we get our healthcare without a contract, why would we need UNITE HERE at all?) The hotel did not agree to that. In the end it came to a lot of shouting and digging in further, and all the hope I had for settling this went out the window.

Before I got involved I couldn’t understand why UNITE HERE worked off of some arcane model–requiring its members go to meeting after meeting in order to have their voice heard. But it is done intentionally to keep the hard workers away. Those that disagree don’t want to take their time to go and get shouted down in a union hall.

Our shop stewards are carefully picked, groomed, then appointed; and if you don’t immediately hop on board they shun you. They love the chant, “this is what democracy looks like,” but is it? Hyatt workers don’t have time for this nonsense, we have lives outside of work, families and friends–we just want to go to work–get paid and go home.

My coworkers and I are tired of being financially burdened with UNITE HERE’s battle costs. We want a settled contract and peace in our workplace. I am one of just under 200 in my hotel, with 1800 in the four Chicago Hyatt’s. They tell me that we are such a small number we don’t count, that they know what’s best. But the reps in my hotel won’t just give us the facts, let us vote, and then properly represent us in all future meetings.

It is long past time to settle this dispute. UNITE HERE needs to join us in the information age, upgrade its systems, and stop trying to rule by decree in our workplaces. Stop doing what’s best for just the rank and file, before we realize we don’t need them anymore.

8 Responses

  1. Manilo

    Bro, I think you are being a little short-sighted and selfish. A union is about ALL workers sticking together including the ones in other cities that haven’t gotten that great deal they have offered you. Sad that you can’t see beyond your immediate needs to see that they are trying to play you off each other.

    • Jacob

      It’s about time someone stands up to UNITE HERE’s intimidation and misleading tactics. Great article!! Keep fighting for truth.

      PS- MANILO-don’t start a comment with Bro, it sounds unintelligent. That’s a freebie, next one will cost you.

      • Jaclyn McAllister

        I am part of Local 1 not by choice but by force. This past August I was hit with a bill from Union Local for $3,000.00 for outstanding bills since 2006. I called regarding this and was shunned to the side and told either I pay or I lose my job. So much for them repersenting our rights and wanting to fire us. I was bullied into signing a payment plan of three installments of $1,000.00 for three months and when I pay on my credit card paying almost 25.00 more because of an extra charge. I was never sent a bill and when speaking with them I was told I “ran from them.” That is so amazing I worked at the same place for seven years I ran real far. I want to get everyone togther and stop this bullying. Unions are suppose to help us not fire us. Please anyone who has issued this please email me. I am at the National Labor Board with a case against them right now and I want it known what they are doing to their workers. I think it is time for all of us to stand up and help others who are scared. Our Union has many illegals who are getting billed more money and just paying it in fear of their job. This is not right.

  2. HMStarsnStripes

    Manilo, 1, I’m no ones bro, not a man at all in fact.
    2 Starting a comment with bro does make you sound unintelligent.
    3 I am, as I said, looking out for my coworkers, there is nothing short sighted about looking at suffering and doing something about it. The people I work with do not deserve to be financially punished because UNITE HERE wants to achieve a goal that fills its coffers and leaves us twisting in the wind for several years.If UNITE HERE wants to expand into other cities they should do it through the process that has already been set up; request an election through the dept of labor have a campaign and then hold a vote. Card check puts an end to this process, and there is nothing democratic about coercing people into an uninformed decision and then holding them to it. My guess is that if enough of the people at Hyatt in Indiana and other places wanted to be unionized they would have done it already.
    4 I work hard and that’s how I have gotten what I have, not through the privilege of being a union member. I am not interested in your one world perspective, “A union is about ALL workers sticking together” and like I said above, I am not going to go on strike EVER in solidarity. I have bills to pay and a future to think of.

    • clare

      dear stars and stripes i couldnt agree more with u. the letter u what peole to sign i did not hear about it but if u had let more peole know i think they would have signed it. iwould like to have signed it.and our shop steward tell us to go to the reps. and the reps.dont tell u anything. even the union newsletter doesnt tell u what u are fighting for. i get more information from the hyatt then the union. and yes we should hurt them where they hurt us in the pocket my not giving them the dues. i also agree with u about other states its up to them. not us in chicago.

  3. coca blos

    I’m with you HMStarsnstripes !!! I am also a union member,at local 450,I work too at a Hyatt and I am VERY VERY frustrated !!!! I am really fed up with them and every day my frustration grows bigger and bigger. For example : The union pretends it fights for ALL its members the same. That would be the fairest thing to do, because each member contribute monthly with the same amount of money, right ?It does not matter if you work 1 day or 20 days /month – they will take their dues – about 39-41 dollars. BUT they will fight for SENIORITY first, and, after that, IF…for the rest of them, They treat the people with less seniority like Nobody – I’m telling you- because I ‘m feeling that every single day since I m there. My work place is nice, the people are nice, I really like it! I try to do my best, but all the time the schedule is made, weekly,we-the people at the bottom of the list are very discriminated !!! While all first page seniority ladies are guarantied 5 days/wk, at the bottom we have nothing or 1 day eventually !! More than that, now is Easter time, the Good Friday will be paid, the seniority ladies will work 5 days plus the Holiday = 6 days , while at the bottom of the list have no days !!! the hotel says is slow now, I can understand that, but this is ridiculous , some of them will have 6 DAYS and others – NOTHING !!! and …wait….all this BECAUSE of the stupid UNION RULES that state that !!!!!I talked with the union representative, but they are unable to convince me this rule is fair and serves all members . That rule is not working now!!! We live hard times now, we all work for same reason” we need a check to put food on the table, we work so hard, if is SLOW in this business sometimes, let be SLOW for everybody, let everybody feel it. Give the ladies at the top 4-5 days, and try to be fair with the rest and offer them 2-3 days so they earn some meney, weekly. For now!!! Anyway, the UNION impose these rules, BUT the contract is in the air!!! My question is HOW can the union enforce the contract , if expired? Tha hotel, the general manager, somebody, must intervene and take advantage here of the non-existing contract- the one the union REFUSE to sign- and be fair to ALL ladies in the Housekeping department and give us a fair share in working-days. This measure will make the UNION think twice about signing soon a contract. If the contract must be respected without being signed – what’s the point to sign a contract? I do not see one !!! I am fed up with all tension exist every day between Hotel and union- and WE, the Working people- are in the Middle, We feel USED by both of them, but , at least the Hotel is treating us nice!!! We do not feel any good thing happening and coming from our Union,by contrary, they want to gain for just the rank and file, as WE, the member are only good when they take our DUES. I feel sometimes I want to renounce the UNION, to feel vindicated!! If the Union take this seriously, soon a lot of its member will refuse to pay their dues!!! Who’ll be the looser? We’ll see !!! My advice to union : listen to your members and make them feel your presence – in a GOOD way- and everybody will be happy. Negotiate , make concessions, when needed, do not be stubborn and do not be GREEDY. It’s not the case.It’s not the time. Thanks for listening and I hope the things will improve soon.Sign, A very sad and frustrated cleaning lady.


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