Hundreds of workers who operate food and beverage concession stands at the United Center are preparing for the picket line after members of UNITE HERE Local 1, a labor union that represents more than 16,000 hospitality workers in the Chicago area, voted Tuesday in favor of authorizing a strikes.

“We’ve been without a contract for over two years now, and we feel that’s way too long,” said Jamie O’Neill, a stand manager.

O’Neill, who’s worked at the United Center for 32 years, says she’s fighting for health insurance.

“I do not have health insurance. I’ve dedicated over half of my life to this company, and I feel I’m entitled to something,” she said.

Her colleague, Tawanda Murray, is an attendant at the 1800 Market. Her priority is a living wage.

“I’ve been there 28 years. It’s tough,” said Murray.

“You need heathy workers to perform their jobs. We want a decent living wage increase. We want a pension plan,” she said.

Levy, which operates food stands inside the United Center, employees nearly 700 food servers, bartenders, suite attendants, cooks and dishwashers.

In a statement, Levy said they are “discouraged by UNITE HERE Local 1’s vote since there is a fair and generous proposal on the table.”

The two sides have held 17 bargaining sessions, starting in September of 2021.

“Our current wage and economic proposal is the most significant in the history of our strong, working relationship with Local 1,” a Levy representative said in a statement.

“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 .”

A strike has not been called yet but can be at any time, according to union members. Union President Karen Kent says workers are ready to do whatever it takes.

“These are things we should have gotten a long time ago,” said Murray. “Show me at that table you care about me. Show me your value what we do.”

“It’s hurtful. It feels like they don’t respect us, or value our work ethics,” said O’Neill. “I’ve spent half my life with this company and [have] nothing to retire on.”

Levy says if a strike is called, it “will continue to provide food and beverage at United Center events to ensure the fan experience is not interrupted.”

The next bargaining session is set for Feb. 8.

By badas

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