Workers from 25 hotels strike in downtown Chicago

CHICAGO --Workers are picketing outside several downtown Chicago hotels as housekeepers, servers, cooks and others participate in a strike as part of an effort to get better benefits.

The Friday walkout began at 5:00 a.m. at 25 large and boutique hotels. It comes after members of the hotel workers' union, Unite Here Local 1, voted to authorize a strike amid contract negotiations. Their current contract expired Aug. 31.

Six-thousand workers are striking, the largest hotel walkout in Chicago history.

The union says better health care coverage is among the demands. Workers say they deserve higher wages, more manageable workloads and sick days to see doctors. They also want health benefits to continue during seasonal layoffs which are common in the industry during the slower winter tourism and convention season.

The strike includes workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. A statement on behalf of the hotel says Hyatt "has a long history of strong relations" with unions and will continue negotiating in good faith. The hotel says it has plans in place to continue operations.

Both the Hilton and Hyatt released the following statements Friday:

Hilton:

Like many Chicago hotels, Hilton is currently negotiating for a new labor contract with UNITE HERE Local 1. The union’s decision to call a strike will have minimal impact on our operations. We continue to provide the service and amenities we are proud to offer our guests and clients every day.  We are negotiating with the union in good faith and are confident that we will reach an agreement that is fair to our valued Team Members and to our hotels.

Hyatt:

Hyatt has a long history of strong relations with the unions that represent its colleagues. Hyatt and UNITE HERE have already come to successful agreements this year in other markets, and we will continue negotiating in good faith in Chicago.

Our colleagues are the heart of our business, and we respect their right to voice their opinions as the negotiations continue. Hyatt hotels have plans in place to continue operations.

We just completed our second negotiation meeting with Local 1 last week, where the union provided multiple proposals for the first time and indicated more will be forthcoming. Additional negotiation sessions between Hyatt and Local 1 are scheduled throughout this month. Colleague benefits and wages remain unchanged as we negotiate a new agreement.

Hyatt hotels in Chicago, like those across the country, offer competitive wages and benefits to our colleagues, including healthcare, various wellbeing initiatives and generous retirement contributions. We remain committed to fostering a safe, inclusive workplace that earns an average colleague tenure of more than 12 years and consistent recognition, including Hyatt’s No. 9 ranking on FORTUNE’s most recent Best Companies to Work For® list. Our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best, and the wellbeing of our colleagues is our first priority.