For immediate release
October 10, 2022
Amid an uptick in labor actions at U.S. airports, Austin airport workers employed by Sodexo say they’re facing a cost-of-living crisis; demand Sodexo agree to a neutral and fair process so workers can decide on whether or not to join a union without facing intimidation or retaliation
Austin, TX – Sodexo workers normally spend their time at the Austin airport serving frequent travelers in the United and Delta lounges – an oasis for customers during chaotic travel experiences. Today, however, lounge workers alerted customers of their demand that Sodexo grant a fair and neutral process for workers to decide on unionization. UNITE HERE Local 23 represents food service workers for HMS Host, Delaware North, and LSG Sky Chefs at the Austin airport. Because of their union contract, these workers receive regular wage increases, affordable healthcare, and other benefits.
“I’ve been working since I was 14 and have 16 years of experience in the service industry. Now, at 38 years old, all I want is to start a family and own a home. With the cost-of-living skyrocketing, the chance to have any of those things feels so far away. I continue to serve my guests with pride and professionalism, but I want to have a say in my career and have a clear vision for my future,” said Kalvin Baker, bartender for Sodexo at AUS’ United Lounge.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2021 Annual Report “Out of Reach,” the hourly wage to afford a 2 bedroom without paying more than 30% of income on housing in the Austin area is $27.58 — $7 more than the new $20/hour minimum wage for workers employed by the city or by companies that have city contracts. Even if Sodexo workers at Austin United and Delta lounges were making the city’s minimum wage, it wouldn’t be enough to afford fair market rent.
“We’re excited to see Sodexo workers at the Austin airport stand up for themselves and we support their call for a fair process to decide on a union. Hospitality workers in Texas know there’s no better time than now to demand respect for the work we do,” said UNITE HERE Local 23 organizer Aileen Bazan.
“I am so proud to be able to support the Sodexo workers at our airport. Workers are the backbone of our airport – without them, we wouldn’t be able to share the beauty of our city with the world. I stand with them and encourage Sodexo to allow them a fair process to decide on unionization,” said Vanessa Fuentes, District 2 Austin City Council.
Sodexo workers who are already represented by unions also took actions last week to encourage Sodexo to raise wages and improve conditions as workers struggle amid historic inflation and travel turmoil. Workers at Dulles outside Washington DC and Boston Logan held informational leaflets while workers at Newark Liberty International Airport held their first picket line to request a new union contract with higher wages.
UNITE HERE Local 23 represents 25,000 hospitality workers from universities and museums, to airport concessions, hotel and parking attendants. Local 23 members are active in Georgia, Mississippi, Charlotte, Nashville, DC, Boise, Indiana, Denver, New Orleans, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Virginia.