Union contract negotiations are ongoing simultaneously at LSG Sky Chefs, Gate Gourmet, and United Airlines’ Catering Operations Division. Most workers are represented by UNITE HERE, the hotel, casino, and airport union that led a nation-wide strike of nearly 8,000 Marriott hotel workers late last year.
“In 2018, UNITE HERE hotel and casino workers demanded that One Job Should Be Enough. In many cities they led historic strikes to improve their wages, benefits, and protections on the job. This year, airline catering workers are saying that one job should be enough for them too. We will do whatever it takes to make that a reality,” said UNITE HERE President D Taylor.
Negotiations include approximately 18,000 UNITE HERE members at airports across the country, including many American, United and Delta hubs:
- American – MIA, DFW, JFK, ORD, PHL, CLT, PHX, and DCA
- United – EWR, SFO, IAH, ORD, and DEN
- Delta – JFK, DTW, SEA, and MSP
United Airlines’ catering workers voted in a 72% landslide to join UNITE HERE last October. They will be bargaining to reach a first union contract.
Higher wages and cheaper health insurance top the list of workers’ demands. Workers say that while airline profits are booming, their jobs do not pay enough to live on – causing some to work second jobs and rely on public assistance. At LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, which combined employ almost 18,000 workers:
- The majority of workers earn less than $15 per hour – including some with 30, 40 and even 50 years of service
- The lowest paid workers earn less than $9 per hour
- Only 34% were covered by employer-provided health insurance in 2018
- Only 7% had a child or family member covered by employer-provided health insurance in 2018
After a series of bargaining sessions with little progress, federal mediation has begun at Gate Gourmet and is scheduled to being at LSG Sky Chefs. Company representatives balked at the union’s proposals for pay hikes and cheaper health insurance, sparking the union to call for mediation. If mediation fails, the parties may be released to “self-help,” meaning that employers would be free to lockout employees and the union would be free to strike.
Meanwhile, protests are heating up – catering staff at 17 airports have exercised their First Amendment rights in recent months, including leafleting passengers at airport terminals and protesting in front of American Airlines’ headquarters in Dallas.