Can it be true? The famous Congress Plaza Chicago after ten years of strike no longer has picketings and for the striking staff the long sad story came to a quite bitter end; No wonder: confidential sources tell us the property is cursed.
The story is so bizarre that it could be staged directly for this column. It is not, but it is actually true: Around 100 employees, so the vast majority of the workforce of a renowned city hotel in Chicago, Illinois was under strike. For 10 years until the beginning of this week.
Now, the managers, chambermaids and waiters have returned to their jobs. The Congress Plaza Chicago, again, is a strike-free hotel. If this column had existed already in 2003, we could make a pretty follow-up report from it. Anyway we need to limit ourself to disappoint potential guests: If you wanted to visit the world's oldest hotel strike in Chicago's oldest hotel and take a snapshow of the picketings with your iPhone, you unfortunately have come too late.
Now maybe finally the nagged property can be renovated. For this unfortunately no money was available in all these years because the striking staff not only did not want to work, but also mad efficient efforts also to bash the hotelier throughout Chicago and nationwide. As a result, many business travellers cancelled reservations, the occupancy rate dropped through the floor, the 120 year old property fell into disrepair.
So please let us not be misunderstood: However the employer has hired his stubborn staff completely again, but still he is not the good Uncle in the play. Because he insisted that they continue to the hourly wages of 2002. These are $8.40 per hour in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. The strike therefore turned to a double penalty.
And in this drama actually all are the ones who are conned: During all the years the strikers in other hotels have worked for dumping wages to survive. Not only they have distorted the market and made it difficult for other colleagues, but they even more have had a heavy life. If they would have canceled the strike after a short time at least, the stress would have vanished.
Better yet, they would have found a job at another hotel in Chicago, the stress would also have diminished. And this option must have existed: In 2002 the regional trade union had to convince 39 hotels in Chicago by a new space agreement. The fee should rise from 8.40 dollars to 14.50 dollars, so by almost 50 percent.
It should not have changed the owner of the Congress Plaza, who got out of the negotiations. He even demanded a small cut. Strike was the answer. The employer - a Syrian living in the Switzerland - can be not so happy with the end of the story, because an employee who hates you, is not just the guarantee of well-being and high yields. So, the story at least gives a good example how people are mislead by their own pigheads.
It may be no coincidence that at least for 100 years there is a curse upon the hotel – oh, what is more: at least several curses. In particular, it is haunted (not only by picketings). For example the well known public enemy No. 1 Al Capone is observed frequently, who is said a former owner of the hotel (like probably every third building in Chicago, Illinois) or at least had checked in here once (as said in any other hotel in Chicago).
But even "Peg Leg Johnny", a hobo who once was killed here (how a hobo would afford a 5-star hotel, is probably the most bizarre part of that ghost story). Additionally, the story of room 441, which supposedly noone is allowed to book because a ghostly woman has already checked in (no wake-up call, please), as well as the mysterious 15th floor which is so inaccessible that no one ever was there. Many hotel managers may know such locations from their own property, for example the General Manager's office.
No surprise that US President Barack Obama 2007 only briefly visited the strikers and later never returned. Ghosts do not have votes.This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.
Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance as its best.
Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams. For more info: www.4Hoteliers.com/itb
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