United Center concession workers authorize strike

United Center
United Center Photo credit Getty Images

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- United Center concession workers are on the verge of going on strike.

Workers employed by Levy Restaurants, a subsidiary of Compass Group, authorized a potential strike after the Bulls game Tuesday evening, with 98% of workers voting yes.

The workers, members of the labor union UNITE HERE Local 1, handle all aspects of the United Center’s food service during Bulls and Blackhawks games as well as other events.

The workers have been without a contract since September, according to the Chicago Tribune, when their union’s collective bargaining agreement with Levy expired. Workers have been demanding easier access to healthcare benefits and higher wages.

Employees filed several complaints to city, state and federal agencies in January, claiming several labor laws have been violated by Levy. Those allegations are still under investigation.

No strike date has been announced. The next event at the United Center will be Thursday, when the Bulls host the Charlotte Hornets at 7 p.m.

Levy Restaurants, in a recent company-issued press release, described itself as “the market leader and most critically acclaimed hospitality company in its industry.” Locally, Levy also operates at Wrigley Field. Nationally, it provides service at such venues as Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.

Levy issued a statement regarding the workers' strike authorization vote:

"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."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images