Wednesday, January 11, 2012
2nd Ward Opposition to Hotel: Déjà vu All Over Again
posted by richard gill
As reported January 4 in ChicagoRealEstateDaily.com, the Unite Here hotel union is working to block construction of a hotel in Chicago’s West Loop area. It’s a 615-room hotel proposed by Toyoko Inn Co. Ltd. What a jobs generator this would be, and what a boost to the West Loop area. But Unite Here wants to block it because it says the company plans to subcontract housekeeping work to non-union employers.
Second Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti has been delaying the zoning approval process, although local residents are not opposed. Fioretti must be feeling enormous pressure from Unite Here. In the 2nd Ward, the union is trying to pull what they pulled and got away with—in Hyde Park—not too long ago. The union tried to disrupt a public meeting about a proposed Marriott Hotel. The developer wanted to get the hotel up and running, and employing people. Not good enough for Unite Here. They insisted on an up-front guarantee of a union shop. The guarantee was not forthcoming, so Unite Here sought to block the whole project.
Neighborhood organizations, the unemployed, the University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the vast majority of area residents thought the hotel was a great idea for the site of the abandoned Doctors Hospital. A few people who lived in the 5th Ward’s 39th Precinct, where the hotel would be built, opposed it. One of them stood up in public and said the hotel would host alcohol-soaked events whose drunken attendees would spill into the streets. He gave as an example…..Bar Mitzvahs.
Seeing that the neighborhood was strongly in favor of the hotel, someone in the precinct or the union found a hook: vote the precinct dry. Only the precinct residents needed to vote on it. A large city hotel can’t make a go of it without sale of alcoholic beverages in its bars and restaurants. The union did much of the legwork to get the dry proposition on the 2008 ballots. They managed to do it, and it passed narrowly. No hotel was built. The hotel union helped kill 200 hotel jobs on Chicago’s high-unemployment South Side.
Fioretti should support the Toyoko hotel. Let the union convince the workers to organize, once they’re working.
Read about the 2008 hotel fiasco on this blog. Start at November 23, 2008 and work back through several earlier posts.