Phoenix airport workers file discrimination complaint against employer

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

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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.

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Phoenix airport workers file discrimination complaint against employer