For immediate release
October 24, 2019
Airline catering workers facing healthcare crisis protest American Airlines at PHL
Airline’s labor woes continue as busy holiday travel season approaches
PHILADELPHIA—Today, airline catering workers who prepare, pack, and deliver food and beverages served aboard flights departing PHL protested at PHL Terminal 2, demanding immediate action to fix a “health care crisis” in the industry. Airline catering workers at PHL service flights operated by American Airlines, among others.
“I’m stuck,” explained Fatoumata Kaba, who has worked for LSG Sky Chefs at PHL for five years, “I can’t afford the company health insurance—it’s way too expensive—and I don’t want to risk getting Medicaid because I’ve applied for citizenship and I’m afraid Trump will deny me if I get any assistance. So right now my children and I have no health insurance. They need to get their back to school checkup exams, but I don’t know how I will afford it. I pray every day that none of us gets sick.”
In 2018, only 28% of LSG Sky Chefs workers at PHL had company health insurance and just 5% had a child or family member covered. With three-quarters of the workforce at PHL earning under $15 per hour, health care is simply too expensive for many workers to afford on top of rent and other living expenses. The City of Philadelphia has until December 1 to decide whether to offer an extension to the use and lease agreement that allows American to operate out of PHL, a hub that generated $400 million of the airline’s $1.9 billion profit in 2018.
The protest at PHL follows a difficult summer for American Airlines, during which it faced challenges including a labor dispute with its mechanics and on-time performance issues that led airline employees to offer apologies and compensation to some affected passengers. It remains a profitable airline.
This past summer, 15,000 airline catering workers at 33 airports—including PHL—voted overwhelmingly to strike when released by the National Mediation Board, citing unaffordable health care and poverty wages. In the time since, workers at American Airlines hubs across the country have participated in protest against the poverty conditions in the industry, including a civil disobedience action with over 50 arrested near American’s largest hub airport in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“It’s simply unacceptable that any worker in Philadelphia should have a full-time job and still find themselves unable to afford both health care and housing for their family. It’s even more unacceptable when that individual’s work benefits a billion-dollar corporation like American Airlines,” said Rev. Gregory Holston, executive director of POWER: Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild. “With this event, we’re putting American Airlines on notice: it’s time to fix this problem right now, and we will not give up until each and every airline catering worker and their families have access to good, affordable health care.”
Notable participants included hundreds of UNITE HERE members from across the East Coast and City Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson and Helen Gym
UNITE HERE is a union of more than 300,000 members in in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries in the U.S. and Canada. This includes over 20,000 workers in the airline catering industry who are employees of Flying Food Group, Gate Gourmet, LSG Sky Chefs, and United Airlines.