GREG WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network,
and I’m Greg Wilpert coming to you from Baltimore. Workers at 26 Chicago area hotels have been
on strike for almost two weeks now. This is one of the biggest such actions in
over a decade in Chicago, and could have ramifications far beyond the city. The union UNITE HERE organized the strike
in a coordinated effort when contracts at 30 hotels had expired. Workers are not only demanding wage increases,
but also safer workloads, increased sick days, and improved job security. One of the main demands, though, is to win
year-round health insurance. Joining us now from Chicago is Q Rivers. She’s UNITE HERE Local 1 strike captain, and
has worked at the Palmer House Hilton for two years. Thanks for joining us today, Q. Q RIVERS: Hi. GREG WILPERT: So first of all, tell us about
why you are on strike. What have your working conditions been like,
and how would you like to see them improve? Q RIVERS: Well, as far as me, my working conditions,
in a slow season I get laid off. And when it’s hot outside I’m working six
days, I’m working without a break sometimes, without even able to take a lunch break. So it’s horrible. The work conditions are horrible. Then once they’re done with us they just lay
us off for three or four months at a time. GREG WILPERT: And so what are you demanding
now in this, in this particular strike action? Q RIVERS: Well, for me, I’m demanding year-round
health insurance. Being a diabetic, it’s very important to me
that I have my health insurance year round, and not just while I’m working. GREG WILPERT: So tell us a little bit more
about why health insurance is such an important issue, not just for you, but I mean, in general. I mean, what is the issue about year-round
health insurance? Why is that a problem? Q RIVERS: Because the people with the lower
seniority in hotels, when they get laid off their health insurance is cut. And everyone knows in the cold season, that’s
when all the colds come, flu, and everything. So people need their health insurance. So if you’ve been there like myself, for two
years, which is a long time, if you’ve been there for two to three years, you lose that
health insurance. So you can’t see your doctor, you can’t get
the proper medical care that you need. So that’s why, that’s why it’s a big thing. Because it’s not fair that- the hotels are
busy. They tell us they’re not busy, but they’re
busy. So they have work for us to do, but they still
choose to lay us off, which puts us in a bind. And it’s not just us, it’s our family. We have our spouses and children on our health
insurance, and then they’re missing out. So that’s why it’s important to everyone. GREG WILPERT: And is there anything you can
tell us about the status of the negotiations? I mean, is the union and the hotel management,
are they coming to any kind of agreement? Or do you think that this will, this action
will last a long time longer? Q RIVERS: I hope it don’t last any longer,
but I’m not sure. I don’t have any details about the negotiations. I’m just here on the picket line with my coworkers
fighting for the greater cause. I don’t know anything about the negotiation. But I hope they come to something soon, but
if not we’re going to be out here until they do. GREG WILPERT: And how did the action come
about? Was it easy or difficult to mobilize workers
at so many hotels? And what has participation been like, are
people respecting the picket lines? Q RIVERS: Oh yeah. People are, they’re respecting it. It wasn’t easy. It’s never easy when you have to gather 26
hotels together and all the employees, because people have bills, and they’re scared. So it is never easy to get them together,
but we did it. We get everyone, the majority of everyone
is out here. We’re fighting for this. And everyone is still standing strong, we’re
sticking together. GREG WILPERT: And what do you think is the
larger significance of the strike? I mean, what lessons do you hope workers at
other hotels and other service sector workplaces might learn from the strike? Q RIVERS: That you don’t, don’t just settle
for what they’re giving you. There’s always more to offer. You’re worth more than just what they’re just
trying to give us, the bare minimum. So I hope people just understand that even
though it’s hard and you’re scared, you have to stand up for something. GREG WILPERT: One final question. I understand that at one of the hotels, the
workers we’re being told that they could be fired if they strike. Do you know anything about this? And if so what- and they in the end voted
for, in favor of the strike, when they found out that that wasn’t true. Could you tell us a little bit more about
what happened? Q RIVERS: That was just rumors that the boss
was throwing around to scare people. Because a lot of the minorities there, they’re
still in the immigration process, or however it goes. So they just threw that around to scare them. But they found, when they found out you can’t
be fired for striking, they’re out here with us. GREG WILPERT: OK, great. Well, I wish you good luck. And we’re going to continue to track this. I was speaking to Q Rivers, UNITE HERE Local
1 strike captain. Thanks again, Q, for having joined us today. Q RIVERS: Thank you. Have a good one. GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining The
Real News Network.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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