Chicago, IL–HMS Host workers at one of the nation’s largest and busiest airports, O’Hare International Airport, will picket this week to inform the public about the poverty wages and poor benefits they receive as employees. "I’m trying to save enough money to bring my four-year-old son from Ecuador to live with me," says Ambar Vera, a Starbucks worker at O’Hare Airport, "but with the wages I make, I don’t know when I will be able to see him again." After a year and half on the job, Ambar makes $6.55 an hour, and pays $140 per month for her health insurance.
HMS Host operates several foodservice outlets in O’Hare, including Starbuck’s, Chili’s, and Cinnabon. Contract negotiations with HMS Host broke off earlier this week. Under the expired union contract, the starting wage for HMS Host workers is $6.35 per hour. Despite these low wages, workers must pay between $90- $175 for individual health insurance, and $250-$480 per month to cover their families. Less than half of the 900 HMS Host employees at O’Hare are covered by the company’s health plan.
"Over 75 million travelers come through this airport every year," says Henry Tamarin, President of UNITE HERE Local 1. "O’Hare is the biggest and busiest airport in the nation, but the workers who keep things running get left behind." HMS Host workers at Los Angeles and Las Vegas airports start at $9.42 and $10.78 per hour, respectively. Workers in both cities also enjoy free individual and family health coverage. HMS Host is owned by an Italian conglomerate, Autogrill SpA. The company made $72 million in revenues at O’Hare in 2003.