On the Picket Line

Airline food catering workers rally for higher pay, health care

By Jeff Powers
December 23, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of airline workers joined protests at airports in 16 cities Nov. 26 in support of food catering workers fighting for higher pay and affordable health care coverage. The workers, employed by LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, are members of the UNITE HERE union.

Some 150 people participated in a picket line and protest at the airport here.

“We would like to make more money and improve our pensions but the main thing is health care,” Melieni Cruz, who has worked at Sky Chefs for three years, told the Militant. “We pay $35 a week if you are single or $70 a week for a family for coverage and there still is a very big deductible.

“The airlines are making billions and the catering companies are stonewalling our contract negotiations that have been going on for months,” she said.

Among other cities where actions took place were New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington, D.C.

Union members at Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet work under the anti-working-class federal Railway Labor Act that wraps the union in bureaucratic red tape designed to restrict workers’ right to strike. Under the guise that the catering industry is essential to interstate commerce, workers must go through a lengthy mediation process and get a formal release from the National Mediation Board to be able to strike.

A number of other unionists, including several UNITE HERE members from San Francisco who participated in a hard-fought strike against the Marriott hotel chain last year, joined the picket line to show solidarity.