As an estimated 2.8 million people are expected to flood airports in part of the heaviest Thanksgiving travel period on record, 17 airports around the country may even be more chaotic than expected due to a planned protest.
The union Unite Here, which represents workers in airline catering, has planned Tuesday protests for 17 of the country’s busiest airports.
Protest size is expected to vary between 200 people to 1,000 people at New York’s JFK. The airports planned for protest include Charlotte, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Newark, New York JFK, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Reagan National Airport D.C.
The demonstration is over wages and benefits.
According to a press release by the union, “one in four workers who provide food and drinks to American Airlines at its hubs and who work for subcontractors LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet earn less than $12 per hour, including many who have been in their jobs for over a decade.” A survey by the union found that 30 percent of Sky Chefs workers were uninsured and an additional 35 percent had government-subsidized healthcare. The union is bargaining for a $15 national wage floor, with added seniority pay.
Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet are the two largest airline catering companies in the country and employ most of the people working in that field.
“We don’t want to affect customers,” union president D. Taylor told Forbes. “We do want to get a message out. Our goal is to bring to light what’s going on with the plight of workers. We’re trying to say that airline companies make billions and we want a piece of the American dream.”
The protest is directly targeting American Airlines. Although the airline does not directly employ any of the caterers, it relies on their services for its inflight meals. American says it has encouraged the catering companies to make a deal with the unions.
“We believe in the collective bargaining process,” a spokesperson for the airline told Forbes. “We understand that a new contract will, ultimately, increase the costs to customers, including American."