Some Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport restaurant workers start strike Monday

Nov 22, 2021, 9:02 AM | Updated: 9:08 am
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)...
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)

PHOENIX — Some Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport restaurant workers went on strike Monday as they push for a deal to improve pay and benefits.

Unite Here Local 11 members are seeking increased staffing, raises, affordable health insurance, a company-paid retirement contribution and tips protection from HMSHost, the largest concessions operator at the state’s largest airport.

The union, which authorized the strike by a 97% vote last week, said negotiations for a new deal started in 2017.

HMSHost has said said it’s offering a “generous compensation package” that includes 12% pay raises and accused the union of using the holiday travel season as leverage in the negotiations.

“We are sorry for the disruptions, but we’re people too,” Ari Berrong-Huber, a host at Barrio Cafe, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Sunday.

“We put up with a lot on this job. … We can’t continue to do the work under the conditions that we’re expected to do it right now, not to the rate of pay, not for the lack of benefits that we receive.”

The union said the length of the strike is indefinite, although HMSHost said it was told the work stoppage would last until the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend.

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

“We are doing whatever it takes to minimize any inconvenience over this busy holiday travel time and have supplemented services with managers, temporary employees and associates from other HMSHost locations, as well as increased our offerings of fresh, pre-packaged food items and self-pay stations,” a company spokesman said in a press release.

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

The company said it expects most of its restaurants, bars and airline lounges to remain open, except for two Starbucks in Terminal 3 and one at the baggage claim of Terminal 4. Zinburger may also temporarily close as well, the company said.

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.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Julie Levin contributed to this report.

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Some Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport restaurant workers start strike Monday