Phoenix airport workers file discrimination complaint against employer

Dec 8, 2023, 11:44 AM | Updated: 11:44 am

woman stands in street during protest...

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport food service industry workers on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2023, filed a discrimination complaint against their contractor. (Facebook Photo/Unite Here)

(Facebook Photo/Unite Here)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport food service industry workers filed a discrimination complaint against their contractor on Wednesday.

The complaint filed by Unite Here Local 11 alleges Black and Latino workers make substantially less compared to white workers at SSP America, a company contracted by the city of Phoenix to operate concessions at the airport.

SSP America employs cashiers, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders and servers at Matt’s Big Breakfast, Dunkin’ Donuts, Four Peaks Brewing Co. and Pita Jungle.

What are the details of the complaint against SSP America?

The complaint states white employees are likely to report over $1,000 each week in gross earnings, while Latino and Black employees are more likely to report less than $800 each week, according to a survey conducted by the Grand Canyon Institute.

It also describes how white workers are often employed in better paid and tipped positions and a large amount of workers of color, specifically Black workers, hold the lowest-paid jobs.

For example, as of September, 81% of the company’s bartenders were white (39 out of 48), and there were no bartenders employed who identified as Black, according to the complaint.

The workers also allege a “tap on the shoulder” approach to promotions, citing instances where management appeared to go out of its way to encourage white employees to apply for certain promotions but discouraged several Black workers from applying to those same positions.

“The company relies upon subjective criteria, lacks uniform standards, and fails to draft written policies or justifications for promotional decisions,” according to the complaint.

What’s next after the airport worker complaint has been filed?

Following the allegations, Unite Here Local 11 requested an investigation into SSP America’s pay, hiring and promotion practices.

SSP America did not respond to a request for comment regarding the complaint.

Unite Here Local 11 represents over 32,000 workers employed in airports, hotel, sports arenas and convention center in Arizona and Southern California.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

A man was shot and killed in northwest Phoenix on Feb. 23, 2023. (Facebook File Photo/Phoenix Polic...

Police seeking suspect after man shot dead in northwest Phoenix alley

The Phoenix Police Department is looking for a suspect after a man was shot dead in a northwest Phoenix alley on Thursday evening.

13 minutes ago

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is eyeing a big expansion on-site. (VRX Studios/Justin Kriel)...

Ron Davis/Phoenix Business Journal

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess eyes expansion of guest rooms, restaurants, event spaces and more

The iconic Fairmont Scottsdale Princess filed a request to the city of Scottsdale to update its master plan.

2 hours ago

Follow @KTAR923...

TSMC reaches construction milestone for Phoenix chip factory

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. in Phoenix reached a construction milestone on its chip plant this week.

3 hours ago

Stock image of four men working off the ground on a grid of steel rods. Construction was one of Ari...

Kevin Stone

Arizona had 103 fatal work injuries in 2022, a sharp increase from previous year

There were 103 fatal work injuries in Arizona in 2022, according newly released federal statistics, 54% more than a year earlier.

4 hours ago

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) attends a House Armed Services Committee hearing on July 9, 2020, in Wash...

Ruben Gallego calls Arizona US Senate rival Kari Lake’s switch up on John McCain ‘insulting’

Democratic Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Ruben Gallego isn't buying Kari Lake's change of heart when it comes to John McCain.

5 hours ago


KTAR Video

Video: Arizona and New York attorneys battle over extraditing murder suspect

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said New York City authorities can extradite a murder suspect, but after he’s prosecuted for violent crimes in metro Phoenix. This comes in response to recent remarks by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg that garnered national attention. Video: Jeremy Schnell and Felisa Cárdenas/KTAR News Photos: Getty Images

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Phoenix airport workers file discrimination complaint against employer