Sky Harbor restaurant workers voting on whether to go on strike

Nov 18, 2021, 12:14 PM
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)...
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)

PHOENIX – Employees of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s largest concessions operator were voting Thursday on whether to authorize a strike over pay and benefits.

Unite Here Local 11 said it’s been working since 2017 to negotiate a new contract with HMSHost, which operates Starbucks shops and a variety of restaurants under leases with the city of Phoenix in both terminals of Arizona’s largest airport.

Local 11, a labor union for hospitality workers in Arizona and Southern California with more than 32,000 members, said it’s seeking fair raises, affordable health insurance, a company-paid retirement contribution and protections for tips.

“Delays in settling a contract mean delays in wage increases and official COVID safety protocols during a global pandemic,” the union said in a press release.

“Workers’ demands also include strong contract language for equal opportunity and protection from discrimination.”

HMSHost said in a press release it is offering increases in wage and benefits in what the company calls “the most generous compensation package ever for Sky Harbor associates.”

No potential strike date has been set, but HMSHost accused the union of using the upcoming holiday travel season as leverage.

“It’s unfortunate that Unite Here Local 11 is planning to inconvenience passengers during a time when people are looking forward to finally gather with family,” an HMSHost spokesperson said in the release.

HMSHost said Local 11 membership represents less than half of the company’s hourly Sky Harbor employees.

The union staged a one-day walkout in September over staffing shortages, mainly at airport Starbucks locations.

HMSHost said it’s been aggressively trying to hire more staff through job fairs, community outreach organizations and other methods.

“We continue to work to retain and attract associates through competitive pay and bonuses during a time in which there are unprecedented labor shortages,” the company spokesperson said.

According to the HMSHost website, the list of Sky Harbor restaurants the company operates includes, among others, Chelsea’s Kitchen, Olive & Ivy, SanTan Brewing and Zinburger.

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Sky Harbor restaurant workers voting on whether to go on strike