|By William Lee, Chicago
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
September 25, 2009 - About 200 union and hospitality workers were arrested Thursday afternoon as they demonstrated their support for ongoing labor negotiations with major downtown hotels and to show solidarity with fired hotel workers in Boston.
About 900 red-shirted members of Unite Here Local 1 participated in the demonstration outside the Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 N. Michigan Ave. Those arrested sat in the middle of Chicago Avenue as an act of civil disobedience. Despite the large number of arrests, the demonstration had no major dust-ups, police said.
About 6,000 downtown hotel workers have worked without a contract since Aug. 31.
"Workers are angry because they feel like [the hotels] are using the economy as an excuse to hurt them, to have layoffs, to cut hours, to push people out of their benefits [and] to roll back their benefits," Unite Here spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel said.
In a statement, Hyatt officials said they were confident they would reach an amicable agreement with the union.
"We respect the union's decision to gather today but believe the most productive place to address these important matters is at the negotiating table," the statement said.
Park Hyatt server Susan Tynan, a union negotiator and among those arrested, said cuts in health care could drastically hurt co-workers and their families.
"[Getting arrested] is worth doing. So whatever the consequences are, I'm willing to take them," Tynan said in a telephone interview shortly after being released.
The protest also was a show of support for 98 non-union housekeepers fired from three Boston-area Hyatt hotels and replaced with lower-paid subcontracted workers Aug. 31. The firings led Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to threaten having state workers boycott the hotels when conducting business unless the fired workers were rehired. Some of those housekeepers attended the Chicago protest.
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