Will the NEA let me attend my convention?

Sitting-in at the Chicago Hyatt Regency where the Illinois Caucus will be housed.

I’m not trying to say it was just me.

But I raised a big stink about the IEA RA being held at the Hyatt O’Hare in Rosemont. The hotel workers represented by Unite Here have been in a contract dispute with a number of big Chicago hotel chains, including the Hyatt. The Hyatt O’Hare is owned, not just managed, by influential Democratic Party supporters, the Pritzker family.

After a year of complaining, the IEA finally rescheduled the RA for the Rosemont Convention Center and cut it by two days: March 11 and 12.

This act of labor solidarity reduces the number of hotel rooms available. But many of us who live in the Chicago area don’t need a hotel room. I’ll commute from home.

I plan to run as a delegate for the NEA RA which will be held in Chicago this July. It would be my last RA before I retire.

When I looked at the hotel assignments, the Illinois delegation is scheduled for the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago.

The Hyatt Regency is ground zero for the union’s activities. Many of my friends have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience in front of that hotel for supporting the hotel workers.

If I am elected as a delegate I was planning on commuting to the RA at McCormick Place from home. But the state caucus meetings will be at the Hyatt Regency.

If that is true, I can’t go.

Will the NEA let me attend my convention if I’m elected?

I sent an email to the NEA a week ago. I’ve heard nothing in response.

Chicago convention losses mount. Solution? A contract!

Several months ago the IEA ended years of annual convention business with the Hyatt Rosemont O’Hare. Following a personal letter from the leadership of Unite Here to IEA President Ken Swanson,  the IEA pulled the 1,000 delegate Representative Assembly from that location.

Unite Here has been without a Chicago contract since 2009.

Other large meetings have also left Chicago for the same reason.

The American Sociological Association just decided to relocate their meeting next August out of Chicago because of the failure of Chicago hotels to come to an agreement with their employees.

Sally T. Hillsman,  Executive Officer of the American Sociological Association told her members,

The contracts between Chicago union hotels and UNITE HERE expired August 31, 2009. Since that time, there have been 11 bargaining sessions but contract negotiations are stalled. We have waited as long as possible to see if the contract situation would be resolved in deference to the importance of Chicago as a venue to the 2011 program. Without any resolution clearly in sight, the ASA Council voted unanimously to move the meeting from Chicago because ASA cannot guarantee that the facilities and environment necessary for our scholarly deliberations will be available.

The July Representative Assembly of the NEA, with over 10,000 members and staff attending is also scheduled for Chicago. The loss of the NEA RA would be a huge financial blow to the Chicago economy.

IEA delegates. Take the pledege to defend retiree pensions, tenure and seniority rights.

Ken Swanson
Cinda Klickna
Bob Blade

We don’t know yet where the IEA RA, the state convention, will be held come March. The state leadership finally did the right thing in supporting Unite Here’s hotel union members in their long dispute with the major Chicago hotels. We pulled our convention from the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.

As an aside, the NEA is facing a similar challenge. It has scheduled their national meeting for Chicago in July. Finding hotel space for 10,000 delegates and 5,000 more people working the convention while supporting the hotel boycott will be tough. It will also be a major financial hit on the Hyatt and Hilton hotel chains because of their long-standing anti-labor practices.

Our local will be holding elections for our five delegates the Wednesday after Thanksgiving break. I’m running as a delegate and I’m glad to say it will be a contested election. That’s a sign of an active, democratic local. All of those people who are running are good folks.

I’m taking a pledge and I hope others do to.

If I go to the RA I will be going to oppose the proposals to tax retiree pensions and to end tenure and seniority rights. And I’m opposed to any sit-at-the-table strategy that will open the door to our Association agreeing to those three proposals.

President Ken Swanson will end his term at the RA and so far the only candidates are VP Bob Blade and Secretary Cinda Klickna. I wish there was a third candidate.

I pledge not to vote for any candidate who does not stand in opposition to taxing retiree benefits and ending tenure and seniority rights. Our Government Relations lobbyists must be directed to oppose these proposals. And no sitting around a table to talk about it.

That’s my pledge. I’m hoping other delegates will take that pledge. I’m hoping other members demand that their delegates take that pledge.

If you fight for nothing, we’ll lose everything.

Union solidarity.

Sit-in at the Chicago Park Hyatt, September 2009. Six months before the 2010 RA.

First, let me say it again.

Good for the IEA’s Board of Directors for moving the IEA RA out of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare after receiving a request to do so from the leaders of Unite Here.

Unite Here represents the housekeepers and other hotel employees who have been in a battle with Chicago hotels for over a year.

But I was surprised to read the following exchange in a comment on the IEA website and IEA Communications Director Charlie McBarron.

Did this dispute with employees flare up after the 2010 RA? or did we cross an invisible picket line last March?


Charles McBarron says:

November 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm

After the 2010 RA, UNITE HERE moved the Hyatt Regency O’Hare to its “Boycott” list. A complete list is found on the UNITE HERE website.

Aside from the snarky “invisible picket line” comment of the person who asked, McBarron never answered the question.

Did the labor dispute flare up since the last RA?

The answer is no. Unite Here has been in contract dispute with Hyatt and other hotels since before the 2010 RA.

It certainly didn’t flare up in the last two weeks before the Board of Directors made their decision to move, as IEA President Ken Swanson suggests. Hyatt Regency O’Hare workers walked off the job last Labor Day.

At the time leading up to the 2010 RA, the Hyatt Regency O’Hare was on a “watch list” on the Unite Here website. A few delegates believed it would have been a statement of labor solidarity for the IEA to move its business elsewhere at the time.

The NEA and the IEA leadership didn’t agree.

But to suggest that this is a recent flare up is disingenuous.

I look at labor solidarity different than President Swanson. I think along the lines of many religious leaders who have marched, picketed and been arrested in support of the housekeepers and other hotel employees.

We support the hotel employees because it is right and just.

Not just because it might help get Pat Quinn elected or because it would be embarrassing to ask our members to cross a picket line.

Because it is right and just.

IEA latest to join in support of hotel workers.

Progressive, religious and labor organizations have supported the efforts of Unite Here to win decent working conditions for its members. The IEA has now finally joined the movement and good for them.

On November 4th, Unite Here’s Local 1 sponsored an interfaith rally at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

Rabbi Brant Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston was most critical of Jewish leaders who seemed to side with the Hyatt chain by holding their dinner at the Hyatt and honoring Hyatt’s CEO.

Given Hyatt’s dismal labor record you may be more than a little appalled to learn that the American Jewish Committee in Chicago will be honoring Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt Corporation, with its “Civic Leadership Award” during  a dinner which will take place tonight at – you guessed it – the Hyatt Regency.

No doubt the leaders of the AJC are not pleased with Rabbi Rosen and other progressive Jewish leaders who criticize them for standing with management in the fight for economic justice.

No matter.

IEA Board votes to move RA from Hyatt.

From Ken Swanson, IEA President:

For some weeks now we have been quietly prepping for the possibility we would have to move our Representative Assembly from the Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont we have used for many years.  This hotel is one of a number of Hyatt hotels involved in a longstanding labor dispute with UNITE HERE,  the union representing hotel workers.

We will share more later about the dispute.  What is important to communicate now is that the Board of Directors voted unanimously to act in accordance with my recommendation that we do whatever is necessary to support our union bretheren in this dispute and if that means we have to move to other hotels and significantly adjust the RA schedule we will do so.  The Board also heard a report related to this matter from the IEA RA Board Subcommittee.

I know there has been some speculation about this issue among some members and in fact some false assumptions have surfaced regarding the amount of attention we have or had not been giving this matter.

There is much to be worked out, as I am sure you can understand.  So, we really don’t have answers to the myriad of “where will we be, how long will the RA last, what will have to be cut from the agenda, etc. questions at this time.  What we do know for sure is that we will all have to be flexible, adaptable, and that certain core functions of the RA must be preserved such as voting on resolutions, bylaw amendments, new business items, and the budget.  All relevant activities regarding election of IEA Executive Officers and NEA Director positions will also need to be prioritized.

I will be sending a letter to UNITE HERE in response to their letter to me dated October 28 informing them of our vote.  While I had responded informally by phone, I indicated we could not give a formal answer until the Board of Directors had a chance to deliberate and act.

In light of the coordinated work among organized labor in electing Quinn/Simon I believe our action continues our efforts to work with the larger house of labor when we find opportunities to support each other and advance our common interests.

More information will be shared in a timely manner as we move forward with alternate plans.  I thank you for your attention to this matter and hope you will all understand implementing this decision will be challenging and require patience and adaptability for many of us.


Will the IEA take solidarity seriously? Seriously.

Hi Fred,

My name is Pine, and I’m the boycotter working on the Hyatt O’Hare with Unite Here Local 1 and Local 450. I’ve read your blog posts, and wanted to thank you for your strong support for our members and their struggles at the Hyatt. It is clear that you take solidarity seriously, a loyalty that advances all worker struggles.

Today we sent a letter to Ken Swanson signed by the President of Local 1 and the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 450. The letter asks President Swanson to honor the boycott and move the event out of the Hyatt O’Hare.


Unite Here Local 450

Hyatt’s Pritzkers out to destroy teacher pensions. So the IEA remains a loyal customer.

As the Hyatt’s hotel workers organize for decent pay and working conditions, led by their union Unite Here, and the IEA ponders whether to hold our state convention at the Pritzker family owned Hyatt Regency O’Hare, I received some interesting information.

One of the loudest, most powerful corporate organizations in the state, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, has been the leading voice in advocating the destruction of public employee pensions, most particularly the Teacher Retirement System.

The President of the Civic Committee is R. Eden Martin, a lawyer and vocal advocate against public school teachers and our retirement system.

And who else sits on the Civic committee?

Why Tom Pritzker  and Penny Pritzker.

By the way, the Hyatt Regency O’Hare unlike many other Hyatt properties is not just managed by the Hyatt corporation. It is a Pritzker family owned property.

The obvious question? Why does the IEA ever hold its convention at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare? What is the problem? In this economy we can’t find another facility in the Chicago area that can accommodate 1,000 delegates? And, please don’t tell me about the time line. This was all raised a year ago before the last state representative assembly.

No IEA RA at the Hyatt Regency.

Hyatt owner Penny Pritzker.

I posted yesterday that the union representing the workers at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare was asking for a boycott. I’m running as a delegate, but will not attend if the meeting is held at that hotel.

Unite Here:

Union contracts covering Hyatt O’Hare workers and approximately 8,000 other Chicago-area hotel workers expired on August 31, 2009. On July 29, 2010, hundreds of Hyatt O’Hare workers, who are members of UNITE HERE Local 450, and UNITE HERE Local 1 members at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Park Hyatt, Hyatt McCormick Place, voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, with 92% voting in favor of striking. The vote represents a major escalation of a citywide labor dispute among Chicago’s downtown hotels and with Hyatt in particular, which has become the target of labor demonstrations across North America in recent weeks.

“Life has been hard for me and my family, ever since Hyatt laid off my husband in the laundry,” says Carmen Sandoval, a UNITE HERE Local 450 member and room attendant of 30 years at the Hyatt O’Hare outside Chicago, where union contracts expired over a year ago. “Now they have us working harder and faster with fewer people, and people are getting injured. I have to take Tylenol everyday just to get through my shift. I am on strike because I’m tired of billionaires profiting from our pain.”

Hotel workers have endured months of chronic understaffing and excessive injury rates. Now Hyatt wants to take more away and lock workers into recession contracts even as the economy rebounds. While many hotel workers live in poverty, the Pritzker Family cashed out over $900 million in their sale of Hyatt shares in November 2009. The most prominent member of the Pritzker Family is Penny Pritzker, the former national finance for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, who now serves on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB).

Frankly, I have no doubts that the leadership of the IEA would never ask members to cross a picket line to attend a union convention at a hotel where union workers are on strike.

And I have heard from those who know things that the IEA leadership is looking for a back up meeting space.

I think it is somewhat sad that our leadership has said nothing publically. A public statement of our intention to move to a more labor friendly meeting place now would be a strong statement to Hyatt management.

But in the mean time I would encourage IEA members and potential RA delegates to contact both the Hyatt management, Unite Here and the IEA leadership to express support for Hyatt workers.