Event follows historic strike authorization votes by workers in 33 airports; marks major escalation in catering workers’ campaign to end poverty wages, unaffordable health care in kitchens serving American
FT. WORTH—Dozens of UNITE HERE-represented airline catering workers and their supporters were arrested on Tuesday morning after participating in a nonviolent act of civil disobedience outside of American Airlines’ new corporate headquarters. A morning rally and march with hundreds of demonstrators marked a major escalation in catering workers’ ongoing campaign to end poverty wages and unaffordable health care in the airline catering industry and kicked off three days of protest and informational picketing at DFW airport and at American Airlines.
“I put my blood, sweat, and tears into this work, and for what? I’ve been working this job for five years, I haven’t even gotten $2 in raises,” said Preston Strickland, who regularly caters American Airlines flights in his work for LSG Sky Chefs at DFW, and was arrested as part of the civil disobedience, “I make $11.35 per hour and it’s impossible to pay for all my bills. I’ve been homeless in the past because I couldn’t afford rent, and I don’t have health insurance because it’s too expensive. These are the reasons that I was arrested today in this civil disobedience action. I hope this gets the ear of American Airlines, because they can and must step up and take action.
The day’s events coincided with the release of a new UNITE HERE report this week which revealed that one in four workers who provide food and drinks to American Airlines at its hubs and who work for subcontractors LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet earn less than $12 per hour, and on average earn less than employees for the same contractors serving airlines at Delta and United hubs. Meanwhile, American reported a 2018 annual profit of $1.9 billion, and is preparing to move into the gleaming new Ft. Worth headquarters later this month. At its home airport, DFW, one of the airline’s most profitable and busiest hubs with up to 900 flights operating daily at peak travel times, airline catering workers earn as little as $9.85 per hour.
The report opens with a forward from the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of Repairers of the Breach and Co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. In it, he states “I am encouraged to see people like the food service workers making food for American Airlines standing up to fight for an America that has never yet been… This is a movement led by those who have been rejected. American Airlines—and, for that matter, any other business—cannot endure without the values America aspires to.”
Over the past two months, in votes held among 15,000 airline catering workers at 33 airports, workers voted overwhelmingly to strike when released by the National Mediation Board. UNITE HERE has requested to be released from mediation with American’s primary caterer, LSG Sky Chefs, noting that Sky Chefs may be unable to resolve the dispute without consent from American Airlines on the financial terms.
“In June, I voted to authorize a strike when we’re released, and I traveled to Dallas to support my coworkers willing to take arrest in front of American’s headquarters because, after 30 years on the job, I can’t wait any longer for change,” said Sonia Toledo, who caters American flights in a Sky Chefs kitchen in Miami, where catering workers serving American are paid $3.23 per hour less than the county living wage covering some other airport workers, “On my wages, I can no longer afford to pay my mortgage and health insurance, so I’m uninsured. American Airlines can stand up today end this dispute without the need for a strike, but it must act so that my co-workers and I don’t have to make a choice between having a roof over our heads and having health care.”
Hundreds of airline catering workers and supporters from Dallas–Ft. Worth and other American Airlines hub cities like Charlotte, Miami, New York, and Phoenix participated in the planned protests.
Media contact: Meghan Cohorst, 239-503-1533, [email protected]