CHICAGO More than a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hotel workers demonstrated outside the Four Seasons hotel on the Near North Side in a continued call to keep jobs safe for laid off hotel workers.

“I started working here about 18 years ago. When the pandemic hit, they called me and they fired me,” Melvin Tate, a laid off worker said

Thousands of Chicago hotel workers remain out of jobs, with many demonstrating as Four Seasons reopens downtown.

“Workers have a real fear that working 10 to 15 years at some of these businesses, that they won’t be called back once these businesses open on a larger scale,” 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez said.

Lopez is among a handful in Chicago’s City Council pushing an ordinance to protect laid off workers, putting them ahead of any new employees when hiring starts again.

“I think it only makes sense that original employees, if they wish to go back to their old employers, that they get the chance to do so,” Lopez said.

The ordinance is much like one passed in 2020 in Los Angeles. Federal lawmakers are also looking at tying the issue to businesses that have taken PPP loans and other federal assistance during the pandemic.

For workers, it’s a sign of hope that as a more open economy nears, their personal budgets will also be helped.