For immediate release
May 24, 2017
Workers Invite Passengers to Join in Appeal to United and American Executives
CHICAGO—Protesting at United Airlines’ annual shareholder meeting, dozens of airline food workers called out the embattled airline for its role in perpetuating indignities against both airline passengers and airline catering workers. They announced that they will be keeping up the pressure in June with a multi-city tour of the East Coast.
Inside the shareholder meeting, Bharat Patel, a dishwasher in the airline catering kitchen servicing United Airlines flights at O’Hare, asked United’s executives: “Do you think I should be paid less than the Chicago minimum wage?”
Shortly after the City of Chicago increased its airport minimum wage and its city minimum wage, United Airlines chose to switch airline catering companies, to one in the suburbs. Patel and many of his coworkers make less than the Chicago minimum wage, and some more than $3 below the $13.15 hourly wage required for some O’Hare airport workers.
Chicago food workers serving United are not alone. In several cities, other airline food workers are paid less than airport minimum wages required of other employers.
Meanwhile, the airline industry is booming, with 2016 profits reaching a record $35 billion for U.S. carriers. Workers earning as little as $7.90 an hour say that it’s clear these record profits have translated into neither record customer service for airline passengers nor to dignified wages and working conditions for thousands of airline catering food workers.
At the rally outside the United meeting, workers announced that beginning June 10 they will embark on the “Fed Up!” tour—a caravan of 13 airline food workers from across the United States and allies who will travel through Charlotte, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia on their way to New York City and American Airlines’ annual shareholder meeting. They invited disgruntled passengers to join them.
“My co-workers and are dependable, long-term employees,” said Dharon Golding, an airline food worker serving Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. “We go the extra mile to make sure that flights are able to take off on time, and that’s helped make the airlines a lot of money. But workers like me struggle to pay for basics like day care. We deserve our fair share of this industry, and this Fed Up Tour is just one way we’ll be making our voices heard.”
UNITE HERE is a union with over 270,000 members in the U.S. and Canada, including 37,000 airline catering and concessions workers. It represents over 15,000 airline catering workers—employees of Gate Gourmet, Flying Food Group and LSG Sky Chefs—at 51 airports across the country.