Yearlong Cambria hotel strike takes its toll on workers, and the owner’s bottom line

Chicago /
Sep.September 30, 2019 02:05 PM
Cambria Chicago Magnificent Mile Hotel at 166 E. Superior Street (Credit: Google Maps and iStock)

Cambria Chicago Magnificent Mile Hotel at 166 E. Superior Street (Credit: Google Maps and iStock)

A former presidential bodyguard is leading the holdouts in Chicago’s second-longest strike ever.

For over a year, Sam Yolo, a former bodyguard for the Nigerian president, along with 28 other hotel workers, have been on strike from the Cambria Chicago Magnificent Mile hotel, according to a report in the Chicago-Sun Times. Each day, they march outside the hotel on Superior Street for eight hours.

Yolo, who immigrated to Chicago from Nigeria in 1990 and has been working in hotels since, has a passion and commitment to the cause that has propelled him to become a leader of the group, one of the organizers, Vinay Ravi of UNITE HERE Local 1, told the outlet.

Their crowd used to be a lot bigger. In September of 2018, over 1,000 hotel workers banded together to demand higher pay and year-round health coverage. One-by-one, hotels across the city hotel workers went back to their jobs as their employers made the concessions they demanded.

But Cambria’s management group, led by Fillmore Capital Partners, had a condition — in exchange for meeting workers demands, they requested maids take on an extra two rooms per shift, increasing their cleaning load from 13 rooms to 15 rooms. So, as the strike crowd dwindled, the Cambria workers remained. The financial burden became too heavy for some who eventually went back to work, but 29 still stand outside seven days a week.

UNITE HERE claims Cambria’s owners, which includes the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, has lost $300,000 as a result of the strike.

Yolo told the Sun-Times that he is prepared to continue to strike, in solidarity with his colleagues, for as long as it takes.

The strike has been happening amid the backdrop of a crowded downtown hotel market. According to hoel data and analytics firm STR, revenue per available room (RevPar) was down to $228 in June, from $251 a year prior. Occupancy was also down slightly. [Sun-Times]Kelsey Neubauer


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