For immediate release
February 14, 2020
As Delta distributes $1.6 billion in annual profit-sharing day, workers from New York to Los Angeles draw attention to poverty wages and unaffordable health care through protest, fasting, and nonviolent civil disobedience
NATIONWIDE – Dozens of airline catering workers were arrested and hundreds more demonstrated on Friday at 16 U.S. airports, calling on American, Delta, and United airlines to act to end poverty and unaffordable health care in the industry. Protesters took arrest in six locations: New York John F. Kennedy International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Detroit-Wayne International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and San Francisco International Airport.
American, Delta, and United all recently reported billions in profit yet again for 2019, and demonstrations coincided with Delta’s annual Profit Sharing Day, in which it distributed a record $1.6 billion to well-deserving airline employees. Meanwhile, catering workers who prepare the airline’s first-class meals and ensure its flights are properly stocked for on-time departures struggle to afford to pay for both rent and health care.
“We’re happy for the Delta employees who are getting checks on February 14th. Those workers have helped the airline earn all of its massive profits, more than even $1.6 billion. But we’ve helped Delta earn its profits too,” said Lonmea Whitfield, a five-year Sky Chefs employee at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, “Through participating in this day of action, I want to show Delta that catering workers like me also deserve to share in its success.”
Over 38% of catering workers serving Delta at its hubs in Minneapolis and Detroit rely on government healthcare programs for themselves or their children, according to a 2019 survey by UNITE HERE of 173 out of 974 catering employees in the LSG Sky Chefs kitchens there. Another 36% in those kitchens reported they are uninsured entirely.
At American Airlines’ largest hub in Dallas, where workers participated in a 24-hour “Fast for Our Families,” wages for catering workers serving the airline are as low as $9.85, and 37% of those surveyed reported being uninsured. In the kitchen serving the airline in its Miami hub, workers earn as little as $10.00 per hour and in the same survey to which 128 out of 840 employees at MIA responded, 35% reported being uninsured. The county minimum wage for most other airport employees in Miami there is $13.61 plus healthcare. Workers in Miami participated in their own six-day fast earlier this month, breaking their fast on the eve of Super Bowl LIV as thousands traveled to South Florida for the game and related festivities.
“I prepare snacks for the premium-class cabin on American Airlines, but my wages are so low that I work 12 hours a day just to make ends meet,” said Linda Fajardo, who works for LSG Sky Chefs in San Francisco, “My health care is so unaffordable that I avoid important medical tests because I can’t afford the bills. American Airlines is rich enough to make sure that I can see the doctor and have a decent life.”
United Airlines catering workers—who are direct employees of the airline—demonstrated in Houston and Honolulu. Nearly 16 months have passed since workers won union recognition, but the carrier still yet to make a wage proposal in contract negotiations. In Houston dozens of United catering employees filed wage complaints in January, alleging that United is paying less than required under the City of Houston Living Wage Air Carrier Executive Order.
Demonstrations took place in Anchorage, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Seattle.
UNITE HERE represents over 270,000 members working 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.