Talks yield no deal, strike still looms at the United Center

Members of Unite Here Local 1 are bargaining with concession operator Levy.

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Members of Unite Here Local 1 walk a picket line Wednesday outside the United Center.

Members of Unite Here Local 1 walk a picket line Wednesday outside the United Center.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A bargaining session has ended with no agreement on a new contract for concessions workers at the United Center, leaving open the possibility of a strike.

Unite Here Local 1 represents about 700 workers at the West Side arena. Its members on Jan. 31 authorized a strike that could begin any time.

The union is bargaining with Levy, part of Compass Group, the operator of concessions at the United Center. Both sides met Thursday and talks broke off in the evening, with no further meetings scheduled.

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Afterwards, Levy issued a statement saying it was “perplexed” that union negotiators wouldn’t agree to let members vote on a contract proposal it said was “double in financial significance to any prior offer.”

The company said its latest offer included wage increases of $4 to $5 per hour, bringing the minimum starting pay to $20 an hour. It also said it was making it easier to qualify for health insurance and introducing a pension, among other benefits.

“It continues to be our sincere hope to reach a fair agreement that shows our team members how much they are valued,” the company said. “Without another bargaining session scheduled at this time, we have plans in place and are focused on continuing food and beverage service at the United Center.”

A union spokesman agreed the company had improved its offer but had no further comment. It has identified wage increases and affordable health insurance as main goals.

There are no events at the United Center until a Chicago Blackhawks game Sunday. The ensuing week is busy, however, with five events including concerts by SZA and Muse.

Local 1 has said many United Center workers visit food pantries or rely on welfare to make ends meet.

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