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Work stoppage hits Palmer House Hilton

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Work stoppage hits Palmer House Hilton

Palmer House telephone operator Brenda Clavelle-Ross says a lack of job security provoked the strike.

Chip Mitchell/WBEZ

Dozens of workers at one of Chicago’s biggest hotels walked off their jobs early Thursday and say they won’t return until 8:30 p.m.

The 15-hour work stoppage at the Palmer House Hilton includes pickets around the hotel, one of 30 downtown inns whose union contracts expired last year.

The strikers, members of the union UNITE HERE Local 1, are upset about workloads and job-related injuries. They say Hilton is also attacking job security. “They’re bringing in non-union workers when many of my co-workers are still laid off,” said Local 1 Executive Board member Brenda Clavelle-Ross, a Palmer House telephone operator.

Hilton says nearly all Palmer House guest services have remained available during the strike. “Union tactics such as work stoppages and demonstrations will do nothing to bring us closer to a new contract,” the company said through a statement. “They are harmful to employees, to the hospitality industry and to the city of Chicago.”

This is not the first strike to hit a local Hilton lately. In October, Local 1 led a three-day work stoppage at the Hilton Chicago.

The impasse is rippling beyond the hospitality industry. The American Sociological Association had planned to meet next August at the Palmer House and the Hilton Chicago. On Wednesday, however, the group announced it was moving the event out of Chicago. It blamed the labor dispute.

In a statement, ASA Executive Officer Sally Hillsman said her group wanted to “guarantee that the facilities and environment necessary for a successful meeting will be available.”

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