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Labor & Worker Rights Mon Jun 15 2009

Congress Hotel Strike Enters 6th Year

One of my very first posts on Gapers Block (awwww) was about the Congress Hotel workers going on strike ("The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (Local 1) is still on strike, dragging out a fight with the Congress Hotel (Congress and Michigan) that started in early June."). Gapers Block is celebrating our 6th year anniversary this year. That's right--the Congress Hotel strike has become the longest hotel strike in the history of the United States, with even the President making an appearance on the picket line (when he was a US Senator). Today is the anniversary picket.

Because I'm a worldly man, I have a subscription to the "number one Jewish newspaper" in the country, The Forward. They had a fascinating piece last week about how the Hotel strike has split the Jewish faith community in Chicago:

This fight, though, has taken on its fiercest and most unusual form within the city's Jewish community. The hotel is controlled by Albert Nasser, a wealthy Jewish philanthropist with residences in Geneva and New York. To run the day-to-day operations at the Congress, Nasser brought in Shlomo Nahmias, an Israeli-born businessman who has put up mezuzas on the hotel's doors and won public support from his Orthodox rabbi for the hotel's battle with its striking workers.

"You do not find in Chicago one hotel that has mezuzas on every door," Nahmias told the Forward proudly in a short interview in his office, just upstairs from the lobby.

Nahmias's foe -- the local branch of the hotel union Unite Here -- is itself led by a longtime Jewish labor leader who put a young Jewish organizer in charge of the strike when it first began. Since then, the workers -- most of them immigrants from Latin America -- have received growing support from Jewish communal organizations and rabbis around the city, who have criticized the conduct of the hotel's management. Just this spring, a high school student who had learned about the strike through his synagogue convinced his school to move the senior prom from the controversial hotel. The strike has become the clearest available case study in the conflicting ways in which Jews approach labor issues today. It is enough to leave some of the workers in the middle of it thoroughly confused.

Will you join the Congress Hotel workers on the picket today, and show your support for Chicago's service workers?

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