Restaurant Workers, Starbucks Baristas at O’Hare Airport Vote to Strike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 7, 2017
Contact: Noah Carson-Nelson
[email protected]

Restaurant Workers, Starbucks Baristas at O’Hare Airport Vote to Strike
After months of working under an expired contract, workers for HMSHost at O’Hare Airport authorize their
Union Negotiating Committee to call a strike at any time

CHICAGO, IL – On Thursday, December 7, food concessions workers Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport
voted to authorize the union negotiating committee to call for job actions, up to and including a strike. Workers
are members of UNITE HERE Local 1, employed by HMSHost International, and have been working under an
expired contract since August 2017.

They hope to settle a contract with HMSHost which includes quality, affordable health insurance and an end to
poverty wages at O’Hare before the Christmas holiday. This vote affects more than 1,200 people who work as
baristas, cooks, servers, bussers, and bartenders, among other classifications at Starbucks, Wolfgang Puck
Express, The Publican Tavern (a One Off Hospitality brand), Summer House Santa Monica (a Lettuce
Entertain You Enterprises brand), Chili’s Grill & Bar, and Tortas Frontera (a Rick Bayless Brand) among

“It’s time to come together and stand up for our health and our families.” Said Tamekah Shivers, a Barista at a
Starbucks store at O’Hare, “I have to sacrifice to get the healthcare I need, I catch myself wondering: How am I
paying my bills? How am I getting food for my kids? I refuse to sacrifice like that anymore.” About 230 people
work at 17 HMSHost Starbucks stores in O’Hare Airport. 81% of baristas at HMSHost make less than the
Airport Minimum Wage of $13.45 per hour, though this minimum wage does not currently apply to

A survey by UNITE HERE of 375 HMSHost O’Hare workers found:

  • 1 in 4 HMSHost workers surveyed said that in the past year, a family member had not received doctor’s
    care, prescription medications, or other medical treatment because the family needed the money to buy
    food, clothing, or pay for housing
  • 42% of HMSHost workers surveyed say they do not enroll in insurance plans HMSHost offers because
    they cannot afford it.
  • 1 in 3 HMSHost workers surveyed report that they, their spouse, or a child rely on a government program
    for healthcare coverage

“Our members provide world class hospitality at one of the busiest airports in the country.” says Karen Kent,
President of UNITE HERE Local 1. “They serve Chicagoans and travelers from all over the world everyday—
that warrants a fair wage, respect, and good, affordable healthcare. We are proud to stand with HMSHost workers
as they fight for what they deserve.”

“We’ve had enough of poverty wages, unaffordable healthcare, and disrespect from our managers and HMSHost,
if it takes a strike to win a good contract, we’re ready.” Said Boddrick Barnes, a cook at Macaroni Grill at

Contract negotiations between HMSHost and UNITE HERE Local 1are next scheduled for December 14.

(1) The Mayor’s Executive Order which establishes the Airport Minimum Wage applies to City of Chicago contracts advertised
on or after October 1, 2014 Executive Order No. 2014-01.  


UNITE HERE Local 1 represents about 3,700 food service workers at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway
International Airports. Additional results from survey referenced can be found at