For immediate release
April 7, 2020
Complaint claims HMSHost has failed to protect against hazards—asks for investigation
As coronavirus cases erupt in Central Florida, 35 current and recently laid off workers who serve food to Orlando airport travelers filed an imminent hazard complaint today with the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, alleging that their employer, HMSHost, has violated OSHA safety standards and has failed to mitigate a known hazard in COVID-19 that can cause death or serious injury to workers.
Contradicting the company’s statements on its website, workers allege that HMSHost has no social distancing protocol in place at MCO, where it employs approximately 800 workers to operate 27 food outlets. Workers also allege that there has been no training on use of OSHA-recommended personal protective equipment. While workers have been provided gloves, they say they have received no training in their use and do not know if their use is required or not. They also say they are not provided with masks and regularly lack hand sanitizer.
In fact, HMSHost exposed workers to needless risk by requiring them to attend anti-union meetings during the last part of March that disregarded the White House and CDC’s March 16, 2020 call to avoid gatherings of ten or more. Workers say they were crowded together in a room in groups of more than ten, sitting less than six feet from one another for the non-critical purpose of hearing HMSHost’s views against unionization. The complaint alleges: “When the history of Orlando’s coronavirus pandemic is written, researchers might well look at these needless meetings as a crucial source of the contagion.”
Maria Gonzalez, who worked as a Sbarro’s cashier until March 26, said, “We didn’t know about the distancing guidelines and every day we hand each other the garlic sauce, the cleaning rags, the pizza cutter, the broom, the mop, utensils and many others. I work as a cashier and everyone touches the register to clock in and out. If I got sick, I could get my mother sick. She is 61, has asthma, high blood pressure, and diabetes. On April 2, I went to the airport and saw that the McDonald’s had installed protective glass shields in front of the cashiers. But not at the HMSHost restaurant next door.”
Rosanny Tejeda, who worked at Starbucks until last Thursday, said: “In the middle of this, it’s even more stressful at the airport. I had to bring my own hand sanitizer, for when there’s no time to wash your hands. I come home to my family and could easily infect them because I wasn’t taken care of at work. I was afraid I got the virus at one point, but the managers never asked me about my symptoms. Some of my coworkers are still at the airport putting their lives at risk for ten bucks an hour, so that they can pay their rent or buy food in the middle of this pandemic.”
Abi Colon, who was a server at Outback Steakhouse, said: “At my restaurant, we had to ask over and over before they gave us hand sanitizer. I had to take the employee shuttle and the APM to get to work, where there’s no way to socially distance, and then we take credit cards and pens and booklets from travelers all day. We heard from the news that TSA agents were getting sick, so even if the managers didn’t say anything, we knew we were in danger.”
HMSHost has four times more employees than any other concessionaire at the Orlando airport when fully open and had $81.1 million in sales at MCO in the last 12 months of available records.
Airport workers who have been impacted by COVID-19, both those who are laid off and who are still working amidst ongoing health and safety concerns, are available for interviews in English and Spanish.