Sea-Tac airline food workers holding strike vote

Sea-Tac airline food workers holding strike vote

SEATAC, Wash. — Food workers who service planes from several different airlines at Sea-Tac Airport are voting on whether to strike.

Unite Here Local 8, the hospitality worker’s union, is urging workers at two food service companies, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, to vote.

On Wednesday evening, Sky Chefs employees voted 99.7 percent to authorize a strike.

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Employees of Gate Gourmet will vote on Friday.

The workers prepare and load food and beverages onto planes for Delta, Alaska and American airlines.
They're fighting for better pay and more affordable healthcare.

The union says the workers, who are not covered by the city of SeaTac’s 2013 “living wage” ordinance, which guarantees a $15 minimum wage, are often left living in poverty and unable to afford healthcare while the airline industry is making billions of dollars in profits.

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KIRO 7 talked to one worker at Sky Chefs who just transferred to SeaTac from Arizona and was caught off guard by the high cost of living.

"I pay my medical so much and I pay $544 a month ... I am staying in (a) motel for over a year now.  I can't even afford a down payment to go into an apartment,” said Ronnie Lalimo.

"They are fighting for fairness, for respect and for jobs that allow them to support their family and make ends meet,” said Stefan Moritz with Local 8.

According to Unite Here Local 8,

73 %of LSG Sky Chefs workers at SeaTac earn less than $15 per hour, including workers who have been working for the company for over 20 years. Only 27% had company health insurance in 2018, and fewer than 7% had coverage for a family member.

Union members who work for LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet are taking strike authorization votes along with airline food workers in 20 other cities nationwide, over the next two weeks.

Even if employees from both companies who are Local 8 members vote to strike, they must be released by the National Mediation Board before they can legally go on strike.

A statement from Gate Gourment follows:

"Gate Gourmet continues to work in good faith with the Union and federally appointed mediator to make improvements for our people across wages and benefits as we have in the past. While our goal is to reach a new agreement as quickly as possible, the negotiations process can be lengthy. In the meantime, we operate under the Railway Labor Act, which preserves the current terms and conditions of our existing National Master Agreement labor contract and prevents operational disruptions."

A statement from Sky Chefs follows:

"Our company values the hard work and dedication of our team members. Wages, as well as other benefits, including vacations, uniforms, and company provided meals, as well as health and welfare, are subject to the collective bargaining process between our company and their union representatives. We are currently in negotiations regarding our Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Union, and we are continuing to negotiate in good faith. 
It is important to note that our industry is governed by the national Railroad Labor Act which prohibits employees from legally striking without a formal release from the National Mediation Board (NMB). At the present time, we have no confirmation of a formal request to the NMB for a release."