SAN FRANCISCO — Scores of airline catering workers employed by LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet joined in a noisy and spirited informational picket line outside the airport’s international terminal here June 21.
“United Airlines get up to snuff! One job should be enough!” and “Bad insurance, lousy pay! This is how your food gets made!” were among their chants.
Workers originally from China chanted in Cantonese — “Wage increase, yes! yes! yes! Health insurance, most important!”
“American Airlines, Delta and United made over $50 billion in combined profits in the last five years,” UNITE HERE Local 2 said in a statement. “Less than 50 percent of workers at the SFO airline catering kitchens where workers are taking strike-authorization votes had company health insurance in 2018, and only 10 percent had a child or family member covered.”
Jennifer Ford, who has worked three years at Sky Chefs, told the Militant, “What the company is offering is only a 30 cents raise each year during the next three years. That’s nothing!”
“I have to go to a free clinic because my company insurance is so expensive that I can’t afford it,” airport catering worker Roberto Alvarez told the media. “I voted to strike when released because one job should be enough.” Many workers have to take on two or more jobs to get by, driving for Uber or Lyft or something else.
Rufina Cua, a housekeeping worker at the St. Regis Hotel downtown joined the picketing. She and her co-workers took part in a successful nine-week strike against Marriott last fall. “I learned we had to fight for our families,” she said. “I learned about solidarity, so when my steward told me about this picket line, I came.”
UNITE HERE represents 20,000 Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet workers across the country whose contracts expire in August. The union has set plans for more informational picketing at San Francisco airport and airline hubs in 20 other cities during July. In a June 20 news release, the union said it will “formally request release to strike from the National Mediation Board, which would be followed by a 30-day cooling off period if granted. UNITE HERE is prepared to strike whenever it becomes lawful.” The union reports that virtually all workers voted to authorize a strike.
This worker-correspondent, a former airline catering worker and Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of San Francisco, joined the picketing. Airline workers — like rail workers — are enveloped by draconian anti-working-class legislation under the Railway Labor Act, that wraps the union in bureaucratic red tape designed to restrict workers’ right to strike.
The leaders of both the flight attendants and pilots’ unions have spoken out in support of the catering workers and their right to strike. This is a fight for the whole working class.