Another strike possible at United Center ahead of Big Ten Tournament – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

Concessions workers at the United Center could walk off the job again this week as the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament gets underway Wednesday.

Talks between the workers’ employer, Chicago-based food service provider Levy, and their union, Unite Here Local 1, failed to produce an agreement Tuesday, Unite Here said in a statement. Both sides said bargaining would resume on Saturday, though a strike could be called at any time.

Concessions workers struck for one day on Sunday after 98% of about 650 employees voted to authorize such a move in January. The one-day strike impacted food service during a Chicago Bulls home game; Levy said there was a limited menu in concessions and no service at Queenie’s, the Stadium Club and the Ketel One Club.

The company said that in the event of a strike during the Big Ten tournament, food and beverage menus would be “adjusted to focus on fan favorites and top-selling items” and that “lesser-visited specialty stands” and Queenie’s would close.

Levy employees at the United Center, which include staff who work in food preparation, concessions, bartending and dishwashing roles, have previously cited access to health insurance as a key sticking point during contract negotiations. Before their strike vote, workers told the Tribune that many Levy employees at the United Center lacked health insurance and others received it only sporadically.

In a statement, Levy said it had “continued to improve our offer” regarding health care during Tuesday’s bargaining sessions.

“We enhanced it this evening by proposing additional funding to lower the number of hours required to qualify for year-round health insurance, thus expanding the number of team members who will benefit,” the company said in a statement. Levy has also said it has offered raises of between $4 to $6 an hour.

Local 1 president Karen Kent said in a statement before Tuesday’s bargaining sessions that “the union is doing everything it can to resolve the dispute before the Big Ten.”

“If talks do not move forward, Compass/Levy employees at the United Center are prepared to take action at any moment including, but not limited to a strike,” Kent said. “We hope it does not have to come to that.”

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