Restaurant workers at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport vote to authorize strike

Nov 19, 2021, 2:53 PM | Updated: 7:17 pm
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)...
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)

PHOENIX – With Thanksgiving a week away, some Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport restaurant workers are prepared to go on strike “at any point” after union members overwhelmingly voted in favor of a work stoppage.

Unite Here Local 11 said a strike was authorized Thursday by a 97% vote as workers push for a deal to improve pay and benefits from HMSHost, the largest concessions operator at the state’s largest airport.

“The dates for the strike have not yet been determined, but [it] could happen at any point,” Rachele Smith, a spokeswoman for the union, said in an email Friday.

HMSHost runs Starbucks coffee shops and multiple restaurants at Arizona’s largest airport.

The union said it is seeking increased staffing, fair raises, affordable health insurance, a company-paid retirement contribution and tips protection. Negotiations for a new contract have been going on since 2017.

“There is no reason that HMSHost cannot do these things,” barista Victoria Stahl said in a press release. “It’s disrespectful of the hard work that my coworkers and I have put in through the pandemic.

“They’ve rejected our proposals at the bargaining table, and if this is what we need to do for them to listen, we’re ready.”

HMSHost said it is offering a “generous compensation package” and accused the union of using the upcoming holiday travel season as leverage in the negotiations.

“We are offering substantial wage increases and enhanced benefits, including paying 90% of our associate’s health care costs, and contributing into a hospitality training fund to directly benefit our staff,” an HMSHost spokesperson said in a press release.

HMSHost said Local 11 members make up less than half of the company’s hourly workers at Sky Harbor.

“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,” the company spokesperson said.

HMSHost operates 12 concessions brands at Sky Harbor, including Starbucks, Chelsea’s Kitchen, Olive & Ivy, SanTan Brewing and Zinburger.

Local 11, a union for hospitality workers in Arizona and Southern California with more than 32,000 members, staged a one-day walkout at the airport in September over staffing shortages, mainly at Starbucks locations.

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

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Restaurant workers at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport vote to authorize strike