Union Workers File Lawsuit Against Signature Room Days After Restaurant Closes

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Last week’s closing of the Signature Room surprised many in Chicago — including the unionized employees who worked at the restaurant and lounge on the 95th and 96th floors of the former Hancock Building. On Monday, the union, Chicago Federation of Labor’s Unite Here Local No. 1, filed a federal lawsuit against the Signature Room alleging that the owners violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. The WARN Act, requires employers to post advanced notice when it anticipates a mass firing or elimination of jobs.

The Signature Room is owned by Rick Roman and Nick Pyknis. The two weren’t immediately available for comment.

The union claims in the lawsuit that under the stipulations of the WARN Act, the Signature Room’s owners were required to give employees at least 60-days notice before closing. The restaurant employed more than 100 full-time workers, according to the lawsuit. The restaurant also employed a number of part-time employees.

Unionized workplaces are a rarity in the hospitality world, though they’re becoming more commonplace. The federation’s ranks includes Gibsons, Harry Caray’s, and Italian Village.

Unite Here Local No. 1 represents 132 former Siganture Room workers. Those workers were notified via an email sent the day the restaurant closed at 6 a.m. on Thursday, September 28, according to the lawsuit.

The filing alleges that the owners owe union members the wages, pension payments, and healthcare benefits it would have paid out during the 60-day notice period. The lawsuit seeks healthcare coverage and the salary workers would have received.

Reports are split behind the closure with one report claiming its due to failed lease negotiations. Others, including Crain’s — which broke the story — have pinned the shutter on slowed downtown business during the pandemic. Another wrinkle is the tipped minimum wage ordinance. City Council members are later this month expected to vote to abolish the practice, which will force restaurant owners to pay a higher wage rather than to depending on tips to make up the difference between tipped and standard hourly wages. The restaurant owners who opposed the ordinance said the measure would lead to restaurant closings.

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