SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – As many as 1,500 food and beverage workers that serve three major airlines at San Francisco International Airport are prepared to go on strike once their union is released by the National Mediation Board, which is necessary before a strike can take place.
Workers overwhelmingly agreed to OK a strike last week. The employees work for LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, which are subcontractors providing meals for United, Delta and American Airlines.
“It’s very difficult with me, because I cannot be with my family. That time is very important for me,” said airline beverage worker Nathanael Baquedano.
Baquedano has been working up to 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. For 20 years, he’s been preparing liquor to be loaded onto United Airlines planes at SFO. He says he works a second job as an Uber driver only to barely make ends meet.
“We have been loyal to the passengers of United Airlines for so many years. We have been doing that with dedication, with care, with passion,” he said. “I think it’s time for us to get a better salary.”
Lorraine Powell is the Food Service Director with UNITE HERE Local 2.
“A lot of them work with poverty wages,” she said. “Many of them are not able to have health care through their employer, like less than 50 percent actually use the health care with the employer.”
The union says currently only 10 percent of food service workers can afford to cover a family member under their health care plan. The average hourly wage is $18.66. Baquedano says he makes about $28,000 a year. He’s also shelling out about $320 a month for insurance.
“The airline industry is making billions in profit and so we feel that it’s fair that they’re making decent wages,” added Powell.
Thousands more food service workers are taking part in similar votes across the country. Workers at SFO are preparing to do informational picketing this Friday to educate passengers.
Sky Chefs said in a company statement that it is negotiating in good faith with the workers. Gate Gourmet said the process can be lengthy, but they have plans in place to prevent operational disruptions.