1,000 food workers at San Francisco airport are on strike

CNN Business

Workers who provide food and drink to travelers at San Francisco International Airport are on strike, seeking what they say is their first raise in four years.

The 1,000 strikers are members of Unite Here Local 2, a Bay Area union with 15,000 members. Airport workers work under a joint multi-employer labor agreement that covers 30 different employers across 84 different airport locations.

“Passengers should bring their own food and have a coffee before arriving at SFO,” said union president Anand Singh, who said the union had been in negotiations for nine months.

“Almost all SFO food and beverage outlets are closed. Workers are fed up with jobs that aren’t enough to sustain themselves, and we’re ready to strike for as long as it takes to get better wages and affordable health care.

The restaurant negotiating team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Airport management, which is not a party to the talks, issued a statement apologizing to passengers for any inconvenience.

The most recent session was last week, and the management’s offer did not come close to meeting union demands, Singh told CNN Business. He would not disclose the percentage increase the union is seeking, but said that unlike some recent strikes and union negotiations focused on working conditions, this one is primarily about wages.

“It’s really at the end of the day about economics,” he said. “Airport jobs used to be great jobs. They have a set of benefits that you can’t find in many other places. But members have to take a second job at the airport to supplement their income.

The majority of its workers earn $17.05 an hour, according to the union, barely above the minimum wage of $16.99 an hour in San Francisco. There is now a higher minimum wage of $19.15 per hour for jobs on city-owned properties, which includes airport, but these unionized workers are still under the 2018 contract.

The current wage does not provide a living wage in the San Francisco Bay Area, the union says, and wages were well above the $15-an-hour minimum level in place when the last contract was negotiated in 2018. The contract includes fully paid healthcare. care and a traditional pension plan.

“I’m on strike because I want to quit my second job and spend more time with my family,” said Kristine Mauricio, barista at Peet’s Coffee and Black Point Cafe. “I have to work two jobs to support my son, and that means I can barely be with him because I’m always at work. My salary for a full hour of work is less than the price of a single meal. It’s 100% unfair.”

Strikes are increasing in the United States and in many sectors so far this year. A database kept by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations shows 283 strikes this year, up 82% from 155 in the same period of 2021.

Workers have been emboldened by a buoyant job market, with around twice as many job vacancies as there are unemployed job seekers, making it difficult for employers to hire replacement workers to replace the strikers.

Only 1.2% of restaurant and bar workers are members of a union according to Labor Department data for 2021, compared to 6.1% of workers in all companies.

Wages in the sector are generally low, with Department of Labor data showing the national median weekly wage is $607 for non-union workers and $725 for the low percentage of union-represented workers.

The restaurant industry has a particularly high turnover rate among disgruntled employees, with twice the quit rate of companies overall, which has helped fuel organizing efforts at other companies. A union effort won votes at more than 200 Starbucks stores across the country, and last month workers at a Chipotle in Lansing, Michigan, voted to join the Teamsters.

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