Portillo’s workers in Addison vote to unionize

The workers, who prepare food for the chain’s Chicago-area restaurants, voted 28-20 to affiliate with the Iron Workers Union. The company has a week to file objections.

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Fernando Jimenez addresses a union rally April 6 outside Portillo’s food production center at 380 S. Rohlwing Road in Addison. Jimenez, a forklift driver, was one of the organizers of the union drive.

Shelly Ruzicka/Arise Chicago

Workers at a Portillo’s food production center in Addison voted Thursday to unionize.

The employees voted 28-20 to accept union affiliation, said the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees the elections. The employees will become members of the Iron Workers Union, formally called the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union.

Kayla Blado, spokesperson for the NLRB, said the employer has a week to file objections. “If no objections are filed, the results will be certified and the employer must bargain in good faith with the union,” she said.

Portillo’s, known for its Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, among other local favorites, is a locally based chain that has expanded to 72 locations in 10 states. Workers at Portillo’s Food Service, 380 S. Rohlwing Road in Addison, prepare and deliver food to the chain’s Chicago-area restaurants.

Organizers said the bargaining unit will cover 49 people, meaning worker participation in the election was high. The union would not include employees at the restaurants.

Fernando Jimenez, a forklift driver at Addison and an organizer of the union drive, told the Sun-Times last week that workers want a contract that will guarantee better wages and benefits, more vacation time and paid sick days. He said there are no paid sick days.

As an independent group, workers agitated for higher wages and safer conditions in 2021, a campaign that included a brief strike. Arise Chicago, a faith-based group that supports worker rights, advised the workers.

The company had no immediate comment on the election result. Last week, it said in a statement, “Just as we are committed to creating an unrivaled culture by living our values of family, greatness, energy, and fun at Portillo’s, we are proud of the competitive pay, career growth and development opportunities, and outstanding benefits — including health insurance, a wellness program, learning resources, meal benefits, and reward and recognition programs — that we provide for everyone who works here. It’s our commitment to listen to our team members and act in their best interest.”

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