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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
18 Mar 2023

NextImg:United Center concessions workers get a pension and wage hikes in new deal

Concessions workers at the United Center have overwhelmingly ratified a contract that their union said establishes new standards in wages and benefits for stadium employees.

Unite Here Local 1 said the contract expands health insurance coverage, provides higher wages and introduces a pension plan. It said concessions contractor Levy will contribute 50 cents per each worker’s hour to a union-run pension plan.

The union said 98% of workers voting on the contract approved it Friday night. It did not provide a count of the “yes” or “no” votes. Local 1 represents about 700 United Center employees who serve food and drinks and clean the arena.

“To have health insurance through my employer means that I will now be able to go to the doctor and get the medical care needed without having to spend $400 a month out of pocket for private insurance,” Jamie O’Neill, a worker for 30 seasons at the United Center, said in a union-issued statement.

The agreement expires June 30, 2025, replacing a contract that expired in 2020 but was extended during the pandemic.

The union said wages will rise up to $4.50 per hour and up to $6.60 per hour by Jan. 1, 2025. It said workers also would get paid parental leave and the addition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth as paid holidays.

The workers had authorized an open-ended strike and on March 5 staged a one-day walkout that limited food and beverage service at a Chicago Bulls game. The strike threat loomed over the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament at the United Center last week until a tentative deal was announced March 12.

The expanded health coverage involves giving staff eligibility for hours worked at Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field, where Levy also has contracts.

“We reached an agreement with Unite Here Local 1 that benefited our team members, which was our goal from the onset,” said a spokesperson for Levy, which is part of Compass Group. She said the company fended off several union demands, including that it contribute to a union-run health fund.

Local 1 President Karen Kent said the workers achieved their goals by sticking together. “Their deep commitment to their principles, to one another and to their union inspires all of us,” she said.

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