Five United Airlines workers sought medical attention for nausea and vomiting after the company provided a Thanksgiving meal to employees.
United offered the turkey dinner Thursday to nearly 3,000 mechanics, baggage handlers and other employees working the holiday at O'Hare International Airport. Flight crews didn't participate.
The dinner was seen as a reconciliatory gesture from the company to its employees, said Don Wolfel, president of Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 4, which represents mechanics at United.
Unions have criticized the airline, a unit of UAL Corp., for awarding tens of millions of dollars in pay increases and bonuses to top managers after employees took big pay cuts to help the company survive 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 meal. "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. He did not have a diagnosis Thursday.
Three employees returned to work, McCarthy said. She didn't know if the other two did.
The meal had been catered. The caterer could not be reached for comment Thursday.