Union Protests at Major Airports Thanksgiving Week

On Tuesday, November 26, union collective Unite Here will hold demonstrations at more than 16 airports across the country to rally attention as they attempt to secure higher wages and affordable health care for airline caterers who prepare meals for all onboard food service. The employers of the protesters are LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet—but demonstrators will direct their pleas to American Airlines.

American subcontracts the catering companies, so Unite Here aims to put pressure on the airline to encourage subcontractors to come to terms with the union. Although their performance is crucial to daily operations, Unite Here reports that 25 percent of its caterers earn less than $12 per hour, including many who have held their jobs for a decade or more. Additionally, a survey of Sky Chefs workers revealed 30 percent were uninsured medically, while 35 percent depend on government-subsidized health care.

Federal Intervention

In accordance with the Railway Labor Act, transportation employees cannot strike without approval from the National Mediation Board, which outlines a process of arbitration and provides federal mediation between the parties. Requests to strike were made over the summer by Unite Here, during which time similar protests were held at multiple national airports, some resulting in arrests and fines. The current protests are a response to the lack of progress made since June.

Workers for United Airlines’ catering division recently voted to strike if conditions are not met.

Unite Here president D. Taylor said that protests are not meant to disrupt holiday travel, saying “We don’t want to affect customers. We do want to get a message out.”

Airports with Planned Protests on Nov. 26:

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW)

Denver International Airport (DIA)

Detroit Wayne International Airport (DTW)

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)

Houston Bush International Airport (IAH)

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Miami International Airport (MIA)

Minneapolis International Airport (MSP)

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK, New York)