On June 15, 2003, members of UNITE HERE Local 1 working at the Congress Hotel went out on strike after the hotel decided to freeze wages until 2010 and slash benefits. To ensure that hotel jobs in this city are strong, family-sustaining jobs, Congress strikers have taken the fight to the streets of Chicago and around the world. There are about 60 active remaining strikers, who both picket the Congress hotel and have lead a campaign statewide to bring an end to the Congress Hotel Strike. Since the time that negotiations began, the Congress Hotel has never offered a proposal with increases in wages or the company's share of healthcare costs from the rates listed in the contract that expired in 2002.This strike has foreshadowed what has happened in the last 10 years. Despite an ongoing picket that still has 60 people regularly on the picket line, the dispute remains unresolved. The union meets with the hotel’s management on an annual basis ever since, but talks have been a sham. Congress Hotel management has even fired workers who are visible union supporters.
Barack Obama first visited the picket lines at the Congress Hotel in 2003. In July, 2007, Barack Obama marched on the picket line with Unite Here Local 1 and talked to them about his commitment to union workers and collective bargaining. Several times when I was up in Wisconsin for the recall elections, union organizers mentioned having shown this video as an inspiration at their meetings.