DePaul Law School students and administration are looking for a new venue to hold their Barrister's Ball to avoid violating the multi-year long picket line by the striking Congress Hotel workers, as reported by chitowndailynews.org , "DePaul law school formal won't cross Congress Plaza Hotel picket line". Some DePaul students and staff have been supporting the hotel workers strike and picket line.
The roots of the strike are in the mid-90s when the Congress Hotel management pulled out of a multi-employer association that bargained for the majority of Chicago hotels. In 2002 the association reached an agreement with the workers group, UNITE HERE! to have most of the city's hotels, increase benefits and wages substantially. In contrast, the Congress hotel's bargaining with the hotel employees "... demanded a 7 percent wage cut and no raises through the contract’s life, it refused to pay increases in health and welfare premiums, essentially eliminating health insurance and pensions".
Management claimed that because the hotel was independently owned, it could not provide the level of wages and benefits, negotiated by the other hotels."But UNITE HERE! officials are quick to point out that Congress’ ownership group is headed by Albert Nasser, a member of a wealthy family whose business interests span the globe".Despite the apparent effectiveness of the picketing on the hotel's business, the management has refused to change its take-back proposal and as of July 2008 the two sides had not even met in a year.
( Source: "Five Years on the Hotel Picket Line", By Brian Cook, In These Times )
Union representatives made an appeal to DePaul officials to persuade them not use the Congress Hotel, at a reading by author and activist, Kim Bobo, founder and executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice. She read from her recent book, "Wage Theft in America" which provided a very appropriate context for the discussion.