United Center concession workers get pensions and wage increases on new contracts


United Center concession workers overwhelmingly ratified a deal the union said would set a new standard for wages and benefits for stadium employees.

Unite Here Local 1 said the deal would expand health insurance coverage, provide higher wages and introduce a pension scheme. Concession contractor Levy said it will contribute 50 cents an hour to a union-run pension plan.

The union said 98% of workers who voted for the deal approved it on Friday night. Local 1 represents approximately 700 United Center employees who provide food and drink and clean the arena.

“Having health insurance through my employer means I can now go to the doctor and get the care I need without having to spend $400 a month on private insurance,” says Jamie O’Neill, 30. The 19-year-old worker’s season at the United Center said in a statement issued by the union.

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

Unions said wages will rise to $4.50 an hour and $6.60 an hour by January 1, 2025. It also said workers would be given paid parental leave, with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth added as paid leave.

Workers approved unlimited strikes and conducted a one-day strike to limit food and beverage services at a Chicago Bulls game on March 5. The threat of a strike loomed over the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament at the United Center last week, until a provisional deal was announced on March 12.

Expanded health insurance coverage will include entitlement to staff hours worked at Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field, which Levy also has.

A spokeswoman for Levy, part of Compass Group, said, “We have reached an agreement with Unite Here Local 1 that it will benefit our team members, which has been our goal from the beginning. It said the company had fended off several union demands, including donating to a union-run health fund for hotel workers, an industry it has members in.

Karen Kent, the first local president, said workers achieved their goals by uniting. “Their deep commitment to their principles, each other, and unity inspires us all,” she said.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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