About 650 concessions, food and beverage workers at the United Center have voted to authorize a strike, according to their union, Unite Here Local 1.
Ninety-eight percent of the food and beverage workers at the United Center voted to strike, according to a news release from Local 1 late Tuesday night. The union gave no information on timing other than to say a strike could begin “at any moment.” The workers are scheduled to return to the bargaining table in mid-February.
The Bulls have matches against the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers scheduled for Thursday and Saturday. Adam Sandler is slated to perform on Sunday, with Bulls and Blackhawks games to follow next week.
The food and beverage workers are employed by Chicago-based food service provider Levy, which operates at sports and entertainment venues around the country, including both Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate Fields. Workers have described access to health care and higher wages as key issues amid contract negotiations with the company. In December, Levy employees filed complaints alleging a range of labor law violations by the company with city, state and federal agencies. Those complaints remain under investigation.
In a statement after the strike vote, Levy said it was “discouraged” by the vote “since there is a fair and generous proposal on the table.”
“Our current wage and economic proposal is the most significant in the history of our strong, working relationship with Local 1. Throughout the process, Levy has made several substantial concessions while the union has moved very little from its initial economic proposal in over a year,” the company said.
Levy said its proposal included a guaranteed starting hourly rate of at least $20 for non-tip workers and the addition of a tip guarantee for tip workers. It said its proposal would also allow more workers to obtain health insurance coverage from the company. Levy said that should a strike occur, it would continue to provide food and beverage service at the United Center.
Workers told the Tribune last week that access to health care was a major issue for Levy employees at the United Center, describing a system in which most workers lacked health care and others received it only sporadically. Dan Abraham, organizing director for Unite Here Local 1, said workers had not received wages other than mandatory increases in the minimum wage since January 2020. They had been working on an extended contract until it expired in September, Abraham said.
Regulators for the city’s Office of Labor Standards, the Illinois Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board are investigating a slew of complaints against Levy alleging various violations of labor law filed by workers in December. In one case, workers alleged four dishwashers at the United Center had worked for 35 days straight in violation of the state’s One Day Rest in Seven Act. Workers have also accused Levy of violating the city’s Fair Workweek Ordinance and federal labor law.
Levy said last week it was “responding” to workers’ claims. “The well-being of our team members and continued compliance with the law are our top priorities,” the company said in a statement.