1,000 Restaurant Workers Strike At Airport
(Burlingame, CA)—After working without a contract for more than a year, nearly 1,000 restaurant workers at San Francisco Airport (SFO) went on strike this morning, shutting down restaurants at terminals throughout the facility. Tomorrow, 350 restaurant workers employed by HMS Host at Miami International Airport (MIA) are holding a strike authorization vote. Labor troubles in both cities—boom markets that have seen big spikes in the cost of living in recent years—spotlight the growing problem of income inequality in America.
UNITE HERE, the union representing airport restaurant and other hospitality workers across North America, is issuing a traveler’s advisory, urging anyone flying from SFO or MIA during this holiday season to bring their own food to the airport.
In San Francisco, workers will be on strike for 48 hours, and will return to work on Saturday, December 13. The strike in San Francisco affects 55 restaurants represented by the Airport Restaurant Employers Council (AREC), which are owned by 23 different companies. If workers in Miami go on strike, more than 25 restaurants, bars and coffee shops will be affected.
“We’re on strike because it is so difficult for our families to make ends meet in the Bay Area. When restaurants slash our healthcare, or deny us job security, we just can’t get by,” said Jesse Johnson, a bartender at the Buena Vista Café at SFO. “The restaurants at SFO bank huge money from airline passengers. We’re out here fighting for our families.”
“Deciding to strike is never easy, but are struggling to hold on to our health care benefit and to get a decent raise,” says Daniel Seymour, an HMS Host worker with 20 years of service at Miami International Airport. “Many of my co-workers start at minimum wage of less than $8.00 per hour and can’t afford higher health care costs. That’s why I am standing up for all of my co-workers, and all the workers who will come after me.”
Workers in both cities are fighting for an agreement with employers that will allow them to support their families in the high-cost regions of Miami and Bay Area. A key dispute is over access to affordable healthcare. In San Francisco, restaurant owners’ efforts to freeze health care payments — a proposal that would likely result in workers having to pay as much as $4200 per year for coverage. The average restaurant worker at SFO earned just $24,124 last year. Increased payments from restaurant employees would result in hundreds of families losing affordable health coverage in the coming years. SFO restaurant owners gross nearly $200 million per year, or $9 for every passenger who flies out of the Airport. In Miami, workers say the cost of healthcare could jump $250 a month for new workers, making it unaffordable to many workers who earn minimum wage.