By Chinta Strausberg
Hundreds of hotel workers continue to strike against 26 Chicago downtown hotels after several negotiation meetings failed.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Saturday voiced their strong support for the 15,000 striking members of UNITE HERE Local 1 who are fighting for year-round health care benefits.
“We stand with working people,” said Jackson who urged the audience to honor the workers’ picket lines during this protest.
Fighting for year-round health benefits is not only for the 6,000 members, but the issue is personal to Kenneth Williams, a shop steward and strike captain at UNITE HERE Local 1. His union represents 16,000 hospitality workers comprised of housekeepers, servers, cooks and doormen.
Williams is a 36-year union member and is recovering from cancer.
A tearful and emotional Williams vowed to continue to fight for year-round health care.
After negotiating with the hotel owners on several occasions, Williams said he has never been so disrespected in his life. “They want to nickel and dime us. They want to take away our health care, our benefits. Some of us are laid off three to four months. They don’t want to give us year-around health care…. We can’t even get sick….
“It’s pretty disgusting to sit at that table looking at them in their suits and telling us what they are trying to avoid,” Williams said. “All we want is year-round health care. We want to be able to support our sisters and brothers who get sick.
“We ask if we can give away our vacation time to brothers and sisters who have been sick. I just fought cancer,” a tearful Williams said. “I lost 30-pounds.
“They don’t understand why we should be able to give our sisters and brothers a week of our vacation time if we care to support them while they were down and out. They wonder whose going to cover the taxes on that,” Williams said.
“I have never been treated so inhumanely in my life,” Williams added. He said hotel owners canceled their last negotiations, which was supposed to be on August 31. “We are in limbo. We have no contract. We have no respect, and they don’t understand why we are in the street.
“We are in the street because we are fighting for respect. We need to be treated as they treat others,” Williams said urging the public to call the hotel owners in support of their fight for social justice.