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Publican O’Hare Workers Walk Out In Labor Dispute

They’re angry about low staffing levels

A Publican Tavern worker pickets outside of O’Hare on Friday afternoon.
Courtesy of UNITE HERE Local 1
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Travelers catching a flight from O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 3 today might have seen a group of disgruntled employees from Publican Tavern holding up signs. The workers were on strike, picketing over low staffing levels, according to a union spokesman. The strike lasted for 90 minutes after workers walked off their jobs shortly after 1 p.m.

Workers picketed on the sidewalks outside the terminal, and it’s unclear if the restaurant continued operation during their absences. They returned to work at 2:30 p.m. and are hopeful to resolve the matter without another labor stoppage, according to a union spokesman. Publican Tavern is a spinoff of the acclaimed Fulton Market restaurant run by One Off Hospitality. But because it’s an airport restaurant, Publican Tavern is run by HMSHost, a company the runs several airport restaurants across the country. HMSHost often operates restaurants under license, such as Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless at O’Hare. Airport workers are more organized when it comes to labor compared to traditional restaurant workers. Hence Publican Tavern workers being members of UNITE HERE Local 1.

The restaurant employs about 80, and for the last “several months” they have asked for additional staff, according to a union spokesman. Kitchen and front of the house staff have been stressed having to deal with an absence of cooks and other team members, the spokesman said. They’ve had to take up responsibilities that defy their original job descriptions causing a poor work environment leaving employees exhausted, the spokesman added.

A One Off spokewoman didn’t return a request for comment. The union spokesman didn’t say if another strike is planned.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

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