BREAKING: HMS Host workers at Sky Harbor Announce Their Return to Work After 10-day Strike

Airport food workers will return to their jobs—and the negotiating table

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 12/1/2021 || PRESS CONTACT: Rachele Smith | (623) 670-9889 | rsmith@unitehere11.org

PHOENIX, AZ –  On day ten of an indefinite strike, HMS Host workers at Sky Harbor airport announced their intention to return to work tomorrow, December 2, and to return to the negotiating table. 

Workers initiated their strike to highlight their demand for a new, comprehensive contract with fair raises, affordable health insurance, a company-paid retirement contribution, protections for workers’ tips, and strong contract language for equal opportunity and protection from discrimination. Workers with UNITE HERE Local 11 have been in negotiations with HMS Host since 2017. 

“Our intention with our strike was to bring more attention to the company’s stinginess after four years of negotiations, and to do it at a time when the company would be forced to recognize the value of our labor most—Thanksgiving,” said Victoria Stahl, barista in Terminal 4. “We did that and now we are ready to go back to the negotiating table.”

“It’s disgusting that I have to go to Mexico for medical care because the health insurance through the company doesn’t cover my treatment,” said Lucia Salinas, cook at Cowboy Ciao. “HMS Host saved more than $4 million on their rent during the pandemic thanks to rent relief from the City of Phoenix, but my family doesn’t get anything like that. Because we went on strike, now everyone can see what kind of company HMS Host is.” 

Over the course of the strike, the union filed numerous unfair labor practice charges against their employer for allegedly violating the workers’ rights to organize and strike. The charges, filed with the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), allege that the company has interfered with workers’ federal labor rights by, among other conduct, questioning workers concerning whether they would be supporting the union and going on strike,  limiting speech in the workplace, and surveilling workers’ protected activity. 

“We want to thank the community for all of the support they showed us while we’ve been on strike,” said Beatriz Topete, organizing director with UNITE HERE Local 11 “The tweets from travelers, the thumbs up from other airport workers, the daily deliveries of food and drinks all kept us going. The generosity of our labor partners, especially the UFCW Local 99 and the Arizona AFL-CIO, made this Thanksgiving one we will remember for the rest of our lives. Solidarity means everything.”

HMS Host workers make up the largest group of food concessions workers at the Phoenix airport. HMS Host is the single largest concessionaire at Sky Harbor Airport, employing hundreds of workers in all Starbucks coffee shops at the airport and popular restaurants such as Barrio Cafe, Chelsea’s Kitchen, and SanTan Brewery. 

Along with issues like affordable healthcare and retiring with dignity, strikers plan to return to negotiations with a focus on ensuring equality at work on the basis of race, gender, age, and sexual orientation. On November 18, the union formally asked the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate the company’s pay and promotion practices. In a complaint filed with the EEOC, the union alleged that during 2019 Black/African American workers were paid on average only 67% of the total earnings of white workers, taking home on average $9,539.49 less per year than white workers. Several individual HMS Host workers at Sky Harbor have also filed pending sex and age discrimination complaints with the EEOC. 

Click here to learn more about the strike and hear worker testimonials. 

 

Victoria Stahl

“Our intention with our strike was to bring more attention to the company’s stinginess after four years of negotiations, and to do it at a time when the company would be forced to recognize the value of our labor most – Thanksgiving,” said Victoria Stahl, barista in Terminal 4. “We did that and now we are ready to go back to the negotiating table.”

Lucia Salinas

“It’s disgusting that I have to go to Mexico for medical care because the health insurance through the company doesn’t cover my treatment,” said Lucia Salinas, cook at Cowboy Ciao. “HMS Host saved more than $4 million on their rent during the pandemic thanks to rent relief from the City of Phoenix, but my family doesn’t get anything like that. Because we went on strike, now everyone can see what kind of company HMS Host is.”

As Indefinite Strike Rages On, UNITE HERE Local 11 Workers at Sky Harbor’s HMS Host File Federal Unfair Labor Practice Charges

Workers allege the company has engaged in coercive conduct in violation of labor laws
and asked the National Labor Relations Board to investigate

PHOENIX – On day five of an indefinite strike, HMS Host workers at Sky Harbor airport announced their union has filed unfair labor practice charges against their employer for allegedly violating the workers’ rights to organize and strike. The charges, filed with the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), allege that the company has interfered with workers’ federal labor rights by, among other conduct, questioning workers concerning whether they would be supporting the union and going on strike, limiting speech in the workplace, and surveilling workers’ protected activity.

HMS Host workers make up the largest group of food concessions workers at the Phoenix airport. HMS Host is the single largest concessionaire at Sky Harbor Airport, employing hundreds of workers in all Starbucks coffee shops at the airport and popular restaurants such as Barrio Cafe, Chelsea’s Kitchen, and SanTan Brewery.

The pending charges filed this week and prior to the strike include allegations that:

  • The company has instructed certain workers that they are not allowed to speak about union-related issues at work.
  • The company has surveilled, or created the appearance of surveilling, workers’ federally protected union activity.
  • The company has threatened workers that participating in a strike without prior notice could result in discipline.
  • During the ongoing strike, management has instructed workers to retrieve their paychecks in person at a new location and then questioned the workers whether they would be going on strike.
  • The company instituted a new mobile ordering system at Starbucks that has increased the workload of baristas without providing the union with notice or an opportunity to bargain.

Workers are demanding a new, comprehensive contract with fair raises, affordable health insurance, a company-paid retirement contribution, protections for workers’ tips, and strong contract language for equal opportunity and protection from discrimination. Workers with UNITE HERE Local 11 have been in negotiations with HMS Host since 2017. Delays in settling a contract mean delays in wage increases and official COVID safety protocols during a global pandemic. On November 18th, after almost four years of negotiations and no contract, workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike.

This June, UNITE HERE Local 11 filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that Host management directed two Starbucks baristas to remove their “Black Lives Matter” masks, which workers had decided to wear as part of an effort to advance racial equity at the company. After a regional office of the NLRB investigated, Host agreed to settle the charge by pledging to employees that it will not prohibit workers from wearing Black Lives Matter masks.

Concerns about racial justice have featured prominently at HMS Host. On November 18, the union formally asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate the company’s pay and promotion practices. In a complaint filed with the EEOC, the union alleged that during 2019 Black/African American workers were paid on average only 67% of the total earnings of white workers, taking home on average $9,539.49 less than white workers. In 2020, UNITE HERE issued a report alleging a $1.85 median hourly wage gap between Black and white baristas at Starbucks facilities operated by Host at airports across the country. Several individual HMS Host workers at Sky Harbor have also filed pending sex and age discrimination complaints with the EEOC.

ADVISORY: Indefinite Strike by Sky Harbor HMS Host Workers Will Continue Through Thanksgiving

Solidarity with strikers continues to grow as HMS Host remains obstinate 

Phoenix – On a day many reserve for gratitude and gathering with family, HMS Host workers will continue to picket, chant and hold a drum line at Sky Harbor. Workers have been on strike since Monday when they announced their indefinite walkout. The strike will impact travelers arriving and departing from Terminals 3 and 4. 

Thanksgiving Day, workers will have a special program to give thanks to each other and for the solidarity of the community.

ADVISORY: Sky Harbor HMS Host Workers’ Indefinite Strike Reaches Day 3

Airport concessions worker strike continues into busiest travel day of the year

Phoenix – HMS Host workers’ indefinite strike will reach its third day just one day before Thanksgiving, reportedly the busiest travel day of the year. Striking workers will continue to picket, chant and hold a drum line in protest of HMS Host’s unwillingness to agree to their demands for a fair labor contract. The strike will impact travelers arriving and departing from Terminals 3 and 4. 

On Tuesday, striking workers were joined by State Senator Martin Quezada (LD29) and State Representatives Reginald Bolding (LD27) and Melody Hernandez (LD26) on the picket line. 

Monday, workers walked out and joined an energized picket line and rally outside Terminal 4. Workers were joined by local community groups, labor allies, and elected officials

Advisory: LAX Food Workers to Stage Day-Long Protest on Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Citing vote Tuesday in key City Council subcommittee, airport workers say they’re still struggling to stay healthy and housed while employers take advantage of pandemic relief

LAX workers will dedicate Wednesday’s all-day demonstration in solidarity with striking airport concessions workers in Phoenix who are also members of Local 11

Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council subcommittee on Trade and Tourism, chaired by Councilmember Joe Buscaino (District 15), voted on a third round of rent relief for LAX concessions companies. Concessionaires have already received 15 months of rent relief and two-year lease extensions meant to allow them to make extra money as business recovers. None of the relief was passed through to essential airport workers in any direct way, despite many being laid off. 

As of September 2021, LAX domestic passenger traffic had returned to 74% of September 2019 levels.

Meanwhile, fellow union airport concessions workers in Phoenix have been on strike since Monday. UNITE HERE Local 11 Phoenix strikers demand a new, comprehensive contract with fair raises, affordable health insurance, a company-paid retirement contribution, protections for workers’ tips, and strong contract language for equal opportunity and protection from discrimination. 

HMS Host is the largest airport concessions company in North America and at LAX, where the company operates numerous restaurants, all on-airport Starbucks locations, and American Airlines lounges in Terminal 4 and Terminal 5.

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