Just in Time for Christmas, HMS Host Workers in Three Cities Ratify New Contracts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 24, 2021

Food workers at Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Orange County airports win significant raises and improved job security

Airport food workers with UNITE HERE Local 11 voted to ratify new contracts with HMS Host Thursday at Los Angeles International, Phoenix Sky Harbor International, and John Wayne Orange County airports.

All three two-year agreements lift workers at the bottom of the payscale to livable wages and establish stronger job security and anti-discrimination protections.

The ratification Thursday also averts a potential strike authorized this past Monday by American Airlines Admirals Club lounge workers employed by HMS Host at LAX.

“I love my job and what I do, but the money I’ve been making hasn’t been enough to live on,” said Evelyn Torres, an LAX lounge attendant. “I voted yes to go on strike if we had to, and I’m so proud that now we have a new agreement and we’re getting the raises we actually deserve.”

Workers in Phoenix won an agreement that dramatically improves health insurance cost-sharing for employees—a critical point for many who were on strike for 10 days during the peak of Thanksgiving travel last month.

“The health insurance alone will be life-changing for me and my family,” said Lucia Salinas, a cook at Cowboy Ciao at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. “After fighting for a contract for about four years, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief that we have what we need and deserve.”

“The pandemic, being unemployed, years of going without—it’s been hard. But we’ve kept fighting to get through it. Knowing what we’ve won shows that it was all worth it,” said Reyna Gonzalez, a cook for HMS Host at John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

HMS Host is the single largest concessionaire at LAX, Sky Harbor, and John Wayne airports—employing nearly 1300 workers at dozens of restaurants and all on-airport Starbucks stores. HMS Host workers also staff the American Airlines Admirals Club and American Eagle lounges at LAX.

Travel Alert: HMS Host workers vote 98% to strike 

MEDIA ADVISORY: December 22, 2021
CONTACT: Maria Hernandez | mhernandez@unitehere11.org | 623-340-8047

LAX Travel Alert: HMS Host workers vote 98% to strike

Hundreds of airport food workers to stage day-long protest Wednesday

WHAT: All-day worker protest at LAX Terminal 4
WHO: Hundreds of airport concessions workers & members of UNITE HERE Local 11
WHERE: LAX Terminal 4, upper level (departures)
WHEN: Wednesday, December 22, 2021. Workers will picket constantly 9 AM–4 PM.
VISUALS: Uniformed concessions workers marching, chanting, and drumming at LAX Terminal 4 wearing festive holiday accessories, red t-shirts, and signs that say “Raise LAX.”
Follow the hashtag #LAXStrike and @UNITEHERE11 on Twitter 

WHY: Ahead of the holiday travel rush, airport food workers with half a dozen airport concessions companies from every LAX terminal plan to demonstrate at Terminal 4 all day Wednesday to protest a labor dispute with airport concessions giant HMS Host. 

On Monday, American Airlines Admirals Lounge workers employed by HMS Host voted 98% to authorize a strike and may announce a walkout any day. 

HMS Host workers accuse the company of dragging out their labor dispute, resulting in many long-term workers going without a raise, except for those required by the airport minimum wage law, for more than three years. 

HMS Host workers at LAX are members of UNITE HERE Local 11, whose members at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport were on strike for 10 days during the height of last month’s Thanksgiving travel. 

HMS Host is the single largest concessionaire at LAX, employing nearly 700 workers at dozens of restaurants in most LAX terminals and all on-airport Starbucks stores. HMS Host workers also staff the American Airlines Admirals Club and American Eagle lounges in Terminal 4 and Terminal 5.

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UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona who work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers, and airports.

HMS Host LAX Headlines

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.”

Vivien Eubanks

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.