Union officials said about 70 concessionaire workers at Los Angeles International Airport who say their wages are not keeping pace with inflation have voted to strike and may call for a walkout any day.
Employees working at American Airlines’ three Admirals Club lounges on Monday voted 98 percent in favor of the strike. They are employed by HMSHost and are represented by Unite Here Local 11.
LAX concession workers plan to gather at Terminal 4’s upper departure level for a full-day sit-in on Wednesday, December 22, supported by hundreds of other food workers employed by a half-dozen other airport concession companies at LAX.
Concession workers have accused HMS of ironing out their labor dispute, leaving many long-term workers without a pay increase for more than three years, except for the wage increase required by the airport’s minimum wage law.
“They’re offering us 75 cents, but we’re asking for more,” said HMS employee Hugo Sanchez. “The company doesn’t want to give us more money, but everything is really expensive right now, like food, rent, gas and insurance… the last salary I got was about four years ago.”
Sanchez currently earns $19.75 per hour.
In a statement released Tuesday, HMSHost said it already offers 100% paid employee healthcare and is offering to increase wages and benefits to at least $24.94 per hour in 2021 and $25.44 in 2022 .
“HMSHost is offering to retroactively extend 2021 wage hikes till October 2018 while providing a one-time payment to its valued employees,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, the union, which has refused to consider this offer, walked away from the negotiating table on 3 November and did not provide a counteroffer.”
HMS also indicated that the two sides have a labour-peace agreement, which would prohibit workers from taking any action that would disrupt operations at the airport.
Unite Here acknowledged that it had signed a labor-peace agreement with HMS in 2009 regarding concessional leases at the time. But the agreement does not apply to employees working in American’s Admirals Club lounge, the union said, so they can strike without penalty.
“It has been our longstanding position that the Labor Peace Agreement signed in 2009 applies only to the host’s lease concession operation and does not apply to the host’s contract to operate an American Airlines lounge,” Unite Here said.
HMS said the union’s actions run the risk of disrupting holiday travel for passengers traveling through LAX.
“We want to make the deal to take care of our people,” the company said. “This move only puts LAX members at risk and stifles valuable wage increases and benefits from them.”
HMS workers represented at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport by Unite Here went on strike for 10 days during the height of last month’s Thanksgiving travel time over issues related to pensions, affordable health care and wages.
American’s Admirals Club lounges serve travelers who have memberships to American Airlines lounges or who have a one-day pass. Depending on the location, travelers can access complimentary breakfast and shower suites, satellite TV, and flight information, among other amenities. Full meals and drinks are also available for sale.
HMSHost, a division of Italian catering company Autogrill SpA, is the largest concessionaire in LAX, employing approximately 700 employees in dozens of restaurants across most terminals and Starbucks stores.