United Center concessions workers vote in favor of authorizing strike

Unclear what would happen with United Center food, drink if workers strike; Chicago Bulls game scheduled for Thursday

Diane Pathieu Image
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
United Center concessions workers vote in favor of authorizing strike
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It's unclear what would happen at United Center events if workers strike. The Bulls and Blackhawks play at the facility, and concerts take place, too.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of concessions workers at the United Center have overwhelmingly voted in favor of authorizing a strike.

The workers have been without a contract for several years.

The vote means a strike could happen at any moment.

The workers that operate the food and beverage concessions work for Levy.

Workers said they have been without a new contract for three years, and simply don't get paid enough money.

RELATED: UIC reaches tentative deal with faculty union to end strike

Many don't get health insurance, and need other jobs to make ends meet.

In fact, workers filed law violation complaints with the city, state and federal agencies.

The union representing the workers said partially in the statement, "They make the experience for the fans memorable. Unfortunately Compass/Levy is not offering all of them the wages, healthcare and benefits they deserve. Workers are ready to do whatever it takes."

A Levy spokeswoman said both Levy and Local 1 mutually agreed to extend all terms and conditions of the contract that expired in 2020, including wages, due to the pandemic. She said Levy has been at the bargaining table beginning in September 2021 and numerous times since.

She said that the union canceled that extension in September 2022.

With a Chicago Bulls game scheduled for Thursday night, it's not clear what plans are in place at the UC if workers strike.

In a statement, Levy said:

"We are discouraged by UNITE HERE Local 1's vote since there is a fair and generous proposal on the table.

"This comes after 17 bargaining sessions, starting in September of 2021, during which Levy has agreed to a number of the union's specific requests.

"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. Levy's current proposal is already more than double the economic value of the previous two contracts with Local 1 at the United Center.

"Our full proposal includes health insurance coverage for more of the union's membership, substantial lowering of qualification requirements, an immediate wage increase, a guaranteed starting hourly rate of at least $20 for non-tipped positions and the addition of a tip guarantee for tipped positions.

"We are committed to working diligently with Local 1 to reach an agreement during the next bargaining sessions scheduled for mid-February. Should a strike occur, Levy will continue to provide food and beverage at United Center events to ensure the fan experience is not interrupted."