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Settle the strike at the Cambria Hotel; a year is way too long

The same strike at more than 25 other hotels ended last year, proof that organized labor and management can almost always work it out.

Hotel workers, represented by Unite Here Local 1, strike outside the Palmer House Hilton, Friday morning, Sept. 7, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Hotel workers, represented by Unite Here Local 1, strike outside the Palmer House Hilton in 2018.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

As Labor Day celebrates its 125th birthday, we sure wish that management and employees at one downtown Chicago hotel — the Cambria Magnificent Mile Hotel — would find a way to settle a particularly long and damaging strike.

The same strike at more than 25 other hotels ended last year, further proof that organized labor and management can almost always work it out. It is a canard that unionization, by definition, is anti-business.

But the Cambria labor action, which began last Sept. 10, drags on. The two sides cannot agree on, among other issues, an increase in the workload in the housekeeping department.

Chicago is a proud home to organized labor. Always has been.

It was in Chicago that the violent Haymarket Affair played out, which started as an entirely reasonable demand by workers for an eight-hour day, And it was here that Pullman Strike of 1894 played out, with almost 4,000 workers walking off the job in what became the first nationwide strike.

The Pullman workers lived in a company town — today the Chicago neighborhood of Pullman — in which they both collected a paycheck from the big boss, George Pullman, and paid their rent to the big boss — George Pullman. When hard times hit and Pullman cut the workers’ pay, they argued he should cut their rent, too. Pullman didn’t see it that way.

More recently, Illinois was home to the landmark 2018 U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision, which overruled 40 years of precedent to say it was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech for public sector unions to collect fees from non-members to help pay for the cost of representing them.

In a nation beset by increasing extremes of wealth and income inequality — another Gilded Age — organized labor is an essential champion of the middle class.

Today in the United States, the top 10 percent earns more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. The top 1 percent earns more than 39 times as much as the bottom 90 percent. And the top 0.1 percent pull in a stunning 188 times more income than the bottom 90 percent.

A couple of dozen other hotels managed to work things out and settle this strike, and Cambria can, too.

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