CHICAGO – Five United Airlines workers sought medical attention for nausea and vomiting after the company provided a Thanksgiving meal to employees that included questionable turkey.
United provided the turkey spread at O'Hare International Airport on Thursday for nearly 3,000 mechanics, baggage handlers and other airport employees, not including flight crew members, working the Thanksgiving holiday.
The dinner was seen as a reconciliatory gesture from the company to its employees, according to Don Wolfel, the president of Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 4, which represents mechanics at United.
Unions have criticized United management since last year as tens of millions of dollars of stock and option awards were granted to top UAL managers after employees took big pay cuts in bankruptcy.
"For years, management worked to distance themselves from employees, but now they're trying to reach out to us," Wolfel said of the holiday meals. "The idea is that we're all in this together."
But one of the meals for dayshift crews quickly ended after staff found that the "turkey was not edible," said Megan McCarthy, a United spokeswoman.
"There were questions about whether the turkey smelled quite right," Wolfel said. "The popular opinion was that it didn't."
Five employees reported nausea and a few workers vomited, said John Zautcke, a medical director at the O'Hare office of the University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center.
Zautcke did not have a diagnosis Thursday.
Three employees returned to work, McCarthy said. She didn't know if the other two did.
It was unclear Thursday who was responsible for the bad turkey.
The meal had been catered by Asti Italian Foods of Bensenville, McCarthy said.
But Roseanna De Astis of Asti said the catering job was passed on to another suburban caterer, which could not be reached for comment Thursday.