We've got trouble in the Windy City. With a capital T and that rhymes with D and that stands for Daddy, as in Leather Daddy. Apparently, the popular International Mr. Leather convention, an annual gathering of fetish enthusiasts that is every non Northface jacket-wearing Chicagoan's favorite people watching weekend, has stepped on the toes of striking members of a hotel employees' union. In response, union members upset that the convention hasn't met their demands have "outed" the mostly gay male fetishists to their employers and families. Careful there, hotel workers — they have whips.
The IML convention has become somewhat of a Chicago institution for both leather enthusiasts and fun-enthusiasts. Over the years, it's grown from what used to be basically a pageant to crown the leatheriest of the leather-wearing dudes (participants are judged on "pecs and personality") to a several day long convention that involves speakers and dancers and a leather market in addition to the cornerstone event. The IML convention also once involved my mother witnessing her first live, in-person assless leather chaps. It's a very special event.
International Mr. Leather has also utilized the facilities at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago for several years. Employees at the Hyatt Regency have been striking since 2009, complaining of unfit working conditions for maintenance workers. They've pressured IML to move their convention elsewhere, but organizers of the convention haven't responded to the union's request. And that's when the union's tactics get dirty — and not in a hot way.
Buzzfeed Shift's Anna North spoke with Jon Krongaard, coordinator of this year's event. Krongaard says that since IML has kept utilizing Hyatt's services, union reps have begun calling IMF attendees' homes and offices, sometimes asking for people by their Leather Daddy or fetish name rather than their legal name, basically outing them to their families and bosses — 2010's Mr. Leather was called at work by union bosses applying pressure to the convention. In addition, striking hotel workers have reportedly subtly harassed or threatened vendors at the event.
Union organizers didn't confirm or deny Krongaard's accusations.
While hotel workers certainly deserve fair working conditions, it's shitty that union leaders would exploit public discomfort with fetish culture in order to promote their own agenda. For some attendees, IML is the one weekend a year that they really get to let their hair down — or, uh, stow their hair beneath a smart leather hat.