15,000 airline catering workers have authorized a strike when released, citing crisis of poverty wages and unaffordable health insurance
WASHINGTON, DC—UNITE HERE-represented airline catering workers and their supporters, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and hundreds of labor, political and community supporters rallied at DC’s Reagan National Airport on Tuesday, calling on American Airlines to take action to ensure that one job is enough for all workers in the airline industry.
In the past month, following a breakdown in bargaining for a new contract, 15,000 airline catering workers represented by UNITE HERE, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and RWDSU at 32 U.S. airports voted to authorize a strike when released by the National Mediation Board. They say that poverty wages and unaffordable health care have created a crisis for workers, making it impossible for them to meet their basic needs. And while American Airlines reported a 2018 annual profit of $1.9 billion, wages for catering workers—subcontracted workers who prepare, pack, and deliver inflight food and beverages—in American Airlines’ major hub cities remain the lowest in the country.
“I came here today because my work benefits American Airlines, the world’s largest air-line, but I earn just $13 an hour,” said Tenae Stover, who works for American Airlines subcontractor LSG Sky Chefs at Reagan National Airport, “I was evicted once already because I couldn’t pay my bills while working this job, but American Airlines is making more profits than ever. I voted yes to strike when released, and I came here to demonstrate to tell American that it can end this crisis today. My co-workers and I can’t wait any longer for the wages and health care we deserve.”
Airline catering workers traveled from near and far to attend the rally, with UNITE HERE and Teamsters members from both DC-area airports, Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, and Seattle in attendance.
Later this week, UNITE HERE will formally request release that the National Mediation Board put an end to futile mediation with LSG Sky Chefs and allow thousands of workers to strike. This would be followed by a 30-day cooling off period if granted. UNITE HERE is prepared to strike whenever it becomes lawful.
“What’s happening in the airline catering industry today is a crisis, and 15,000 workers can’t wait for months or years for the wages and health care they deserve,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor, “American Airlines must take responsibility for low wages and unaffordable health care by taking immediate action to end poverty among employees of its airline catering subcontractor. Wages for workers in airline catering kitchens in American Airlines hubs are the lowest in the country, and it’s absolutely unacceptable that an industry making billions of dollars in profits would turn its back on a group of workers who make it possible for flights to get off the ground. UNITE HERE is go-ing to keep fighting until one job is enough for all workers in the airline industry.”
UNITE HERE also announced plans for a major mobilization in Dallas, home to American Airlines Headquarters, to take place during the week of 12th of August.
“There’s plenty of money in this country. But after 50 years of a right-wing agenda, it’s in the hands of the uber wealthy and big corporations, not the working people who deserve it,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Democrats can no longer sit back and let the rich get richer. It is time we actually put working people first in this country.”
Those in attendance at Tuesday’s informational picket and rally included:
• Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sen. Chris Brown (CT), Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH), Sen. Jacky Rosen (NV), NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
• Rep. Anthony Brown (MD, Rep. Steven Horsford (NV), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA), Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA), Rep. Grace Meng (NY), Rep. Darren Soto (FL), Rep. Dina Ti-tus (NV), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ)
• UNITE HERE President D. Taylor, Air Line Pilots Association President Captain Joe DePete, AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson, AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler
• Representatives from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and German trade union ver.di
For more information, visit www.AirportStrikeAlert.org
UNITE HERE is a union of more than 300,000 members in in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufac-turing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries in the U.S. and Canada. This includes over 20,000 workers in the airline catering industry who are employees of Flying Food Group, Gate Gourmet, LSG Sky Chefs, and United Airlines.