“One Job Should be enough”—Airline Food Workers Take Their Struggle Public

With political support from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and several Virginia state lawmakers, airline food preparation workers took their nationwide struggle against their bosses public with a July 23 protest that drew almost 1,000 people and virtually filled the old main hall at Washington National Airport.

The workers, organized by Unite Here, demand union recognition, better wages and benefits, and an end to employer interference in their organizing drives at airports nationwide. SkyChef employs 11,000 food prep workers for American Airlines and Delta, while 4,000 more who toil for CafeGourmet, organized with the Teamsters, prepare food for a third airline, United.

“One job should be enough,” was their frequent chant—the same one Unite Here hotel workers have used against the Marriott chain.

SkyChef and CafeGourmet together control the workers’ lives, and 80% of U.S. airlines’ food preparation. American, Delta, and United made over $50 billion in combined profits in just the past five years alone, Unite Here notes. But the workers who prepare and load food and beverages onto their planes are often left living in poverty and unable to afford healthcare.

That’s because the food service firms impose rock-bottom pay, offer health insurance to few, and have no pensions.

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