Thousands of American, Delta and United Airlines catering workers authorize airport strike
Workers who prepare, pack and deliver food and beverages served aboard flights for American, Delta, United and other airlines have voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike when released by the National Mediation Board. It was the largest such vote ever to occur in the U.S. airline catering industry, with more than 11,000 workers voting in 28 cities.
The workers are members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and UNITE HERE unions, and are employed by the two largest airline catering subcontractors in the world: LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet. The three unions collectively represent more than 25,000 airline catering workers.
“For far too long workers in the airline catering industry have struggled to get by while American, Delta and United airlines have earned billions. The vote to authorize a strike by hard-working people who are members of three different unions, including our own, shows our united strength and solidarity in this fight. Together, we are sending a clear message to the airline industry that our members need to earn a living wage in order to continue living and working in the major cities our airports serve,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
“In the past two weeks, airline catering workers voted overwhelmingly yes to authorize a strike, a result that points both to the crisis of poverty wages and unaffordable healthcare in the airline catering industry, and to workers’ willingness to do whatever it takes within legal means to make a change,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor, “Catering workers refuse to sit back and watch airlines like American, Delta and United earn billions in profits while workers barely scrape by. Now is the time for one job to be enough in the airline catering industry.”
“In 2018, American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines made a combined $7.4 billion in profit,” said International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “The world’s airlines can afford to pay vendors enough so that employees earn a fair return on their work. Airline CEOs are being paid $15 million a year while Gate Gourmet employees are paid as little as $8.46 per hour. We want airline passengers to understand that our members don’t want to have to strike, but they’re ready to do so.”
The strike authorization vote followed a breakdown in bargaining for a new contract. Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet pay their employees poverty wages — most are paid less than $15 an hour, some after more than 40 years on the job. Many go without health insurance because they cannot afford the $500 monthly premiums to enroll in family healthcare plans.
In their first public action post-vote, many workers joined informational picket lines at airports across the country during the week of June 17.