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

(Press – Video) Chicago hotel workers will have access to panic buttons under new ordinance

via FOX 32: Chicago hotel employees are taking a stand against sexual harassment and indecent exposures by guests. A new law has passed to better protect staff including giving them access to panic buttons.

(Press) Hotel Workers Union Celebrates Anti-Harassment Ordinance

via CBS Chicago: As more allegations of powerful men sexually abusing and harassing women come out, the union representing thousands of Chicago hotel workers is celebrating a new ordinance it says will protect them.

Unite Here Local 1 plans to host a celebration at 9 a.m. Tuesday marking the passage last month of what they refer to as the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance…

(Press) Chicago moves to make hotels ‘No Harvey’ zones for housekeepers

via The Chicago Tribune: Late last week, author and all-around national treasure Barbara Ehrenreich tweeted, “Our current sex harassment discussion is woefully class-skewed. Too much about actresses and not enough about hotel housekeepers.”

Tuesday morning, a group of union leaders, legislators and hotel workers gathered at Chicago’s City Hall to celebrate a newly enacted “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance intended to protect the very housekeepers Ehrenreich mentioned….

(Press) Aldermen approve proposal to protect sexually harassed hotel staff

via Chicago Sun-Times: The ordinance is championed by Rules Committee Chairwoman Michelle Harris (8th) and embraced by Unite Here Local 1 to end what a union leader has called the “sisterhood of silence.”

It would require hotels to provide employees working alone with portable panic buttons — akin to a Medic-Alert worn by senior citizens — that would alert hotel security…

Hotel Burnham Housekeeping Department Wins Union

BurnhamContact: Jordan Fein
(312) 576-5048
[email protected]

Chicago – Workers in the Hotel Burnham’s housekeeping department yesterday voted overwhelmingly to join UNITE HERE Local 1. The vote comes after over a year of picket lines, rallies and other actions, and despite vigorous management intimidation that compelled the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to file two complaints against the hotel.

Burnham housekeepers are now calling on Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group to immediately recognize the union and begin bargaining. The workers are hoping the hotel will quickly agree to the same wages, health insurance, job protections and other benefits already enjoyed by union workers at Kimpton’s Hotel Allegro and Hotel Palomar.

“My general manager told me I would lose benefits if I voted for the union, but I knew she wasn’t telling me the truth,” said Karina Tufino, who has worked as a housekeeper at the Burnham for 10 years. “I voted for the union because I want a better life for my family, and I am proud of my coworkers for standing strong together through this fight.”

The Hotel Burnham is owned by Lone Star Funds, a private equity company with $38 billion in assets under management as of February 2016.

“Lone Star Funds should tell Kimpton to settle a contract now,” said Silverio Arenas, a houseman at the Burnham. “I’ve worked at this hotel for 15 years, and I shouldn’t have to wait any longer for the same benefits provided to Allegro and Palomar workers.”

Following the vote, all of Kimpton’s Chicago hotels are now unionized. Room attendants at Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco voted overwhelmingly to join Local 1 last December, and will begin negotiating on April 12. Burnham housekeeping workers are hoping to join Monaco workers on April 12 to facilitate a quick settlement at both hotels.

The Hotel Burnham and Atwood Restaurant continues to face prosecution by the NLRB General Counsel for firing server Evan Demma two weeks after he participated in a union protest.

Intimidation by Kimpton managers at the Burnham and Monaco prompted the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to file complaints against Kimpton in April 2015 and January 2016.

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 6,500 hotel workers in downtown Chicago.

Federal Government alleges more than 20 violations of labor law against Pinnacle’s Ameristar Casino in East Chicago

Noah Carson-Nelson
[email protected]

CHICAGO — On March 21, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chicago Regional Office issued a federal complaint against the Ameristar Casino East Chicago which is owned and operated by Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. The alleged violations include firing a bartender on the basis of her union activity and threatening employees—all alleged to violate employees’ rights under federal labor law.

UNITE HERE members protest outside Ameristar Casino in June 2015

UNITE HERE members protest outside Ameristar Casino in June 2015

According to the NLRB complaint, which can be found herealleged violations by Pinnacle management and select staff at the casino include: 

  • Filing a lawsuit in Indiana Superior Court with “a motive to retaliate against the Union”
  • Firing a long-time bartender, Jessica Levin, because she contacted customers about the boycott she and her coworkers have called on Ameristar
  • Interfering with employees’ protected union activity by surveilling and photographing workers participating in rallies outside the casino and using those photos to create the impression that employees were under surveillance
  • Making changes to job classifications and break policies without negotiating with the union, including blocking long-term bartenders and servers from returning to their jobs in the sports bar when it was remodeled

The complaint comes in the midst of an attempt by members of UNITE HERE Local 1 at Ameristar to negotiate a new contract with the casino.  The last contract originally expired on October 31, 2012.

“We should have the same benefits as the rest of the unionized casinos in the area” says Jessica Fisch, a cocktail server at the Ameristar Casino for the past 16 years. “Ever since Pinnacle took over in 2013, they’ve been bad for us and for Northwest Indiana.  I’m glad the Labor Board is seeking an order that will make them stop doing things that violate our rights.”

The NLRB General Counsel found sufficient basis to prosecute more than 20 allegations of unfair labor practice at Ameristar Casino and will seek remedies that include restoring employees for any losses they may have incurred due to the violations and reimbursing the Union for legal fees associated with the lawsuit. A hearing is scheduled for June 27 in Chicago.

UNITE HERE represents 1,500 casino workers in Indiana.