I swore off the horror of flying over Thanksgiving weekend years ago. DFW Airport is already planning on a record number of travelers passing through the airport over the next four or five days, which will surely make using the airport hellish. As if the crush of holiday travelers wasn’t enough, employees of LSG Sky Chefs have decided that the busy travel weekend offers the perfect opportunity to draw attention to their ongoing labor dispute over workers’ low wages and lack of health benefits by staging a protest at the airport.
The in-flight catering workers, who are members of the Unite Here union, plan to congregate around 2:15 p.m. today at terminal D right outside the American Airlines check-in counter. This isn’t the first time the union has protested. Fifty-eight members were arrested when the union marched outside American Airlines’ headquarters back in August. In other words, these union members are willing to cause real disruption to have their voices heard. Today’s protests could prove a thorn in the side of travelers and airlines trying to avoid messy delays before the brunt of the holiday travel weekend.
At issue is an ongoing contract dispute between LSG Sky Chefs and the union which has been dragging on since October 2018 and has been in federal mediation since last May. The union says most of their workers make less than $11.35 an hour with some employees being paid as low as $9.35 an hour, and they can’t afford health benefits. Even though the dispute is between the union and LSG Sky Chefs, the company is a major supplier of in-flight food and beverages for American Airlines, and the union says the contract between LGS and AA is a major reason for the lack of livable wages at the company. From the report in the DMN:
Assembly worker Paulin Yasaka said many of the workers at LSG Sky Chefs are immigrants like himself and are supporting families. Yasaka, 29, said he has worked at the company for five years since moving from Congo. He earns $11.65 an hour. He said he supports his sister and nephew living in Hurst but doesn’t make enough of a base salary to afford health insurance and pay his other bills.
“One job should be enough and 40 hours a week should be enough,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to work 20 hours of overtime every week just to get by.”
LSG Sky Chefs, a subsidiary of German airline conglomerate Lufthansa, also provides catering services to Delta, United, Alaska and Air Canada. LSG said it is negotiating “in good faith” for a contract with workers and has been in federal mediation since May.
In a statement, an American Airlines spokesperson says the company hopes the union and LSG can reach a deal that provides livable wages to its employees. In the meantime, AA will have to figure out how to provide reliable service during a travel weekend that will now offer more than the usual holiday headaches.