About 150 hotel workers who’d been laid off — but promised their jobs back when the hotel industry rebounds — gathered in Grant Park Friday to call on their employers to continue providing health insurance.
They are among about 7,000 Chicago hotel workers represented by UNITE HERE Local 1 who are out of work and, since Oct. 1, without health insurance.
“I have really, really bad arthritis and only four pills left, and I have a daughter who needs her braces taken off,” said Shawan Johnson, 41, who worked turning over rooms at the Hilton Chicago for six years until she was laid off in March.
“When you work for a company for many, many years and once a pandemic hits they just say, ‘Well, forget it, no more healthcare, no more anything.’ … It’s like insult to injury,” said Johnson.
Jesus Morales, who’d worked as a banquet server at the Drake Hotel for 33 years until he lost his job in March, said he’s in a tough spot because his wife, who had brain surgery a few years ago, and daughter, who was recently in a car accident, both depend on him for health insurance.
“We have spent years and decades of our lives working for these companies, and now we’ve been thrown out like yesterday’s garbage,” he said. “They should be ashamed of how they’re treating us.”
The crowd chanted, “We deserve better!” before marching under a light drizzle several blocks around the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave.
The majority of workers represented by the union are women of color, according to Unite Here spokeswoman Sarah Lyons. The workers are, in part, room attendants, bartenders, cooks, servers, bellmen and doormen.
Their jobs are spread among dozens of hotels, but the largest chunk of them work for the Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt hotel chains, Lyons said.
Representatives of the three hotel groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment.