For immediate release
February 10, 2020
On day Delta distributes $1.6 billion in profit sharing to its employees, catering workers to draw attention to all those the airlines have left in poverty
NEW YORK—Airline catering workers who led nationwide protests against American Airlines on November 26th, including planned arrests in surrounding streets and terminals of seven airports, have set their next day of action for Friday, February 14th. Still receiving no commitment from American or any other airline to end poverty in the industry, the workers and allies plan protests at 15 airports — and more civil disobedience actions this time around.
American, Delta and United recently reported billions in profit yet again for 2019. On February 14th, the day of the planned protests, Delta will distribute a record $1.6 billion to its well-deserving airline employees. Yet, the contracted catering workers who prepare the airline’s first-class meals and ensure its flights are properly stocked for on-time departures will highlight the impossible choices they face to provide health care and pay bills to support their families.
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.
“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 the 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.”
Catering workers across the United States face similar challenges, and at a time when health in the airline industry is of utmost importance. In the 2019 UNITE HERE survey covering 2,240 of 15,000 catering workers at the two largest airline catering contractors nationally, 56% of respondents reported having gone to work sick, 66% because they could not afford to miss time. The lack of healthcare among frontline workers must be addressed.
At American Airlines’ largest hub in Dallas, wages for catering workers serving the airlines 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 35% reported being uninsured, even though the minimum wage for most airport employees there is $13.61 plus healthcare.
Meanwhile, nearly 16 months since United Airlines’ directly-employed catering workers won union recognition, the carrier still has not made a wage proposal in contract negotiations. In Houston, dozens of United catering employees in January filed wage complaints alleging that United is paying less than required under the City of Houston Living Wage Air Carrier Executive Order.
Protests will take place in cities including Charlotte, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Details of each protest are forthcoming.
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.