Close on the heels of an East-Bay-wide strike of fast food workers, 180 Oakland Airport food and retail workers walked off the job on Friday, August 30th. They are protesting unfair labor practices by their employer, Host International, including regressive bargaining and a retaliatory lawsuit filed against the union. Host’s most recent proposals would strip away benefits the workers have depended on for years.
"I’m striking because I’ve worked here for 22 years, I raised my family on this job, and now Host wants us to give up the benefits my co-workers and I have fought to protect for all these years," says Monica Guzman, a retail cashier.
The workers have been in contract negotiations with Host for the past year. Their wages are already low – retail clerks earn between $9.75 and $12.64 an hour. Host’s latest proposal would gut their contract: drastically reducing vacation and sick days; eliminating pensions, paid meal breaks; cutting pay for new hires and freezing longtime workers’ wages for five years; and removing workers from the union’s affordable health insurance plan.
"I’m striking today because Host doesn’t think we should get overtime pay if we work more than 8 hours", says Marisol Chavez-Lopez, a cook at Max’s Deli. "We don’t live in the nineteenth century!"
The airport workers are joining a growing movement of food and retail workers fighting for better pay and benefits. Fast food workers across the country have organized actions calling for higher minimum wages – including an East-Bay-wide fast food strike on August 29th. And Walmart workers launched a national strike last May, and are building for an action in San Francisco on September 5th.
The workers’ union, UNITE HERE Local 2850, has tried for a year to reach a fair compromise through negotiation – but Host’s proposals have only gotten worse for workers. "The only movement Host has made is backward. We hope that the Port of Oakland will step in to help resolve this dispute," said Local 2850 President Wei-Ling Huber.