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 strike.
"Following the Bulls game, hundreds of arena workers who work the food and beverage stands operated by concessions giant Compass Group and Levy Restaurants at The United Center voted in favor of authorizing a strike," a statement late Tuesday from the union read. "The strike was authorized with a 98% yes vote."
According to the statement, "A strike could be called at any moment."
The announcement comes after union workers last summer conducted a survey of Compass/Levy workers at the United Center, which they say found wages do not keep up the cost of groceries, housing and more.
“I voted yes to strike because my rent went up from $800 to $1250 and I have to work two or three jobs at a time to make ends meet," said Latonya Kirkpatrick, who has worked in concessions for Compass/Levy at The United Center for 8 seasons.
According to the union, concession workers, who have been without a new contract for three years, are seeking one that includes affordable health care, higher pay and better benefits.
“Arena workers are the backbone of Chicago’s tourism and sports industry," said Karen Kent, President of UNITE HERE Local 1. 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."
The next event at the United Center is scheduled to take place Thursday, as the Chicago Bulls take on the Charlotte Hornets.