LAX Workers Protest Airport Expansion, Urge Board to Reject Environmental Report

Those who live near and work at the airport say development must better address job quality, healthcare, pollution, and displacement

LAX workers protest airport expansion outside LAWA board Oct 7, 2021

LOS ANGELES–Dozens of LAX airport workers from in-terminal concessions and retail, guest services, and airline catering demonstrated against airport expansion Thursday as the Board of Airport Commissioners voted to certify an environmental report that moves the development process forward.

Los Angeles World Airports and the Los Angeles City Council are seeking to rapidly expand LAX amid projected ongoing growth in air traffic and infrastructure needed to host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

But thousands of workers throughout the airport—members of UNITE HERE Local 11 working in food service and retail positions and of SEIU-USWW working in janitorial and passenger services—point to issues that are still not addressed.

LAX workers protest airport expansion outside LAWA board Oct 7, 2021

“Even though I work at LAX, I will fight this airport expansion if it’s just going to get us more of the same,” said Rosio Narez, a member of UNITE HERE Local 11 who lives in Inglewood. “Almost everyone in my family has asthma, and I was hospitalized for my asthma as a kid. Increased air traffic will increase air pollution and make families like mine more vulnerable to respiratory diseases. My entire family got COVID, and the communities around the airport have been some of the hardest-hit. We can’t ignore these issues.”

“I oppose this expansion because the airport has not done enough to ensure that we— the people who work at LAX—can get by,” said Laura Banuett, who has worked as a fast food attendant at the airport since 2016. “Rent is so expensive. I’ve had to move further and further away and now live in Compton, raising my daughter on my own while living in a converted garage with no bathroom and no kitchen. I spend almost three hours on public transportation every day to get to and from work. It can’t keep going on like this.”

“Southern California hospitality and service workers are moving from a devastating fight to stay healthy and housed during the pandemic to preparing for the world’s largest tourism events,” said Robin Rodriguez, organizing director at UNITE HERE Local 11. “City leaders face a series of votes that will affect the everyday lives of these families for decades. We want their decisions—about job quality, access to affordable healthcare, pollution, and noise—to demonstrate the value of our work as ‘essential’ in a time of economic growth as well as in a time of crisis.”

LAX workers protest airport expansion outside LAWA board Oct 7, 2021
The LAX Airfield and Terminal Modernization is a massive project to construct Concourse 0 and Terminal 9, add more than two dozen gates, and reconfigure runways and taxiways, among other changes.

Data from LAWA demonstrates that 78% of domestic passenger traffic recovered in July 2021 compared to July 2019—the strongest performance since the pandemic began.

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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.

Relief for Workers, Not Billionaire Corporations Like HMS Host

Statement by UNITE HERE Local 11 on Los Angeles World Airports Board of Airport Commissioners vote to accept $36.78 million in an American Rescue Plan Act concessionaire relief grant at the July 8, 2021 Special Meeting

HMS Host LAX workers and Ron Herrera outside Los Angeles City HallLos Angeles–Los Angeles World Airport staff have recommended that the Board of Airport Commissioners vote to accept federal grant offers for American Rescue Plan program funds at their special meeting on July 8, 2021. The Federal Aviation Administration allocated $36,785,751 for concessionaire relief at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). UNITE HERE Local 11 members at HMS Host demand that, should LAWA accept federal aid, it must require concessionaires like billionaire firm HMS Host to direct all relief to the workers that have struggled through the pandemic.

LAWA extended rent relief twice during the pandemic, providing minimum annual guarantee waivers and 24-month lease extensions for concessionaires like HMS Host. HMS Host is the largest airport concessionaire in North America and operates approximately 47% of all food and beverage concessions at LAX. UNITE HERE Local 11 estimates that because of LAWA’s actions, HMS Host escaped paying more than $4 million in rent between April 2020 and March 2021 for their two direct contracts. This does not include additional relief from the terminal concession manager, URW Airports, which URW passed down to sub-tenants like HMS Host.

Meanwhile, hundreds of HMS Host workers were laid off at the start of the pandemic and many are still waiting to return to their jobs.

HMS Host is a wealthy corporation, whose parent company, Autogrill, is owned by Italian billionaires through a holding company with a net asset value of $12.9 billion as of December 31, 2020. The airport provided more than enough relief throughout the pandemic and concessionaires like HMS Host must prioritize supporting airport workers. Domestic passenger traffic at LAX for May 2021 is at 61% of May 2019, before the pandemic. According to TSA screening numbers, travel peaked nationwide last week leading up to Independence Day with screening numbers exceeding 2019 levels. With travel recovering and significant aid already given to the firm, we believe HMS Host does not need nor does it deserve any additional relief from the American Rescue Plan Act concessionaire relief grant offered to LAX.

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What Labor Shortage? LAX Employees Demand Airport’s Biggest Concessionaire Recall Laid Off Workers

HMS Host again faces employee protest as workers remain on layoff in the wake of subcontracting

L.A.’s airport authority has granted the company millions in rent relief

Los Angeles: HMS Host workers at LAX protested Wednesday to demand that the airport’s largest food and retail concessions employer stop outsourcing food preparation work and allow them to return to their jobs.

LAX airport workers protest claims of labor shortages while workers remain on layoff

UNITE HERE Local 11 alleges that HMS Host outsourced work that is typically done by union members, purchasing products such as salads and wraps from an outside vendor to sell at its LAX sites. The Union asserts this has resulted in lost work opportunities for HMS Host workers.

HMS Host Executive Vice President Derryl Benton recently claimed that HMS Host currently has 4,400 job openings around the country. Meanwhile, most HMS Host workers at LAX remain on layoff and say they don’t know when HMS Host will allow them to return to work.

HMS Host is the largest airport concessionaire in North America. In 2020, the city’s airport authority LAWA authorized waivers that enabled HMS Host to escape paying in excess of $4 million in contractually-obligated rent, according to estimates by UNITE HERE Local 11. In addition, LAWA granted HMS Host valuable two-year extensions on their direct contracts at LAX. Italian billionaires own HMS Host’s parent company Autogrill through a holding corporation, Edizione, which had a net asset value of $14.98 billion as of December 2019.

HMS Host workers at LAX are over 90% people of color (and over 20% Black) and live in the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of its LAX workforce remains laid off.

Mourning Coworker’s Death, Employees Demand HMS Host “Pay Up” for Healthcare

LAX’s largest food service company faces a million-dollar bill for worker health insurance

Los Angeles: Fluttering a massive banner reading “HMS Host Pay Up” down a parking structure across from Terminal 4 yesterday, LAX airport workers said the airport food service giant has failed to make the financial contributions to extend health care coverage for its laid-off employees.

“We’ve carried this company on our backs for years to make them successful,” said Carlos Castillo, a 21-year bartender for HMS Host at LAX who, like most of his coworkers, has been laid off since March.

While Mr. Valencia had healthcare coverage during the pandemic and at the time of his death, former coworkers say the loss underscores the importance of ensuring that laid-off HMS employees and their families have healthcare coverage throughout the duration of the pandemic.

Last month, a health benefit fund covering HMS Host employees in Los Angeles informed the company that it is delinquent in paying more than one million dollars in benefit contributions required under a City rent relief program for airport concessionaires.

“HMS Host needs to do what other airport companies have done and pay what they owe for their laid-off workers’ healthcare,” said Robin Rodriguez, organizing director at UNITE HERE Local 11. “It’s reprehensible for HMS Host to contribute to workers’ uncertainty during this time. The company has access to billions while their laid-off workers are struggling to stay healthy and housed.”

In October, HMS Host workers filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging it failed to pay wages they are owed under the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, despite numerous complaints from employees. The still-pending lawsuit also alleges that HMS Host also failed to comply with California labor laws requiring employers to pay final wages to terminated employees immediately.

HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in North America and at LAX. Its parent company, Autogrill (BIT: AGL), is owned by a family of Italian multi-billionaires whose holding corporation had assets valued at $13.8B last year.

HMS Host workers at LAX are over 90% people of color (including over 20% Black) and live in the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of its LAX workforce remains laid off.

Workers of LAX Giant HMS Host Call on Company to “Pay Up”

Concessionaire faces wage class action and a million-dollar bill for worker health insurance, while hundreds of airport workers remain laid off

Los Angeles, CA: Sixty laid off LAX workers took to their cars Thursday to caravan through the airport with horns, lights, and signs that say “HMS Host Pay Up.” The protest came ahead of a move by the airport authority Board of Airport Commission to grant the company a valuable lease extension. HMS Host has been the subject of controversy and criticism from its own employees in recent months.

Workers picket at LAX wearing signs that say, "HMS Host: Pay Up!"

“During the pandemic, HMS Host has repeatedly failed to live up to its most basic obligations towards its workers. When its workers needed them most, HMS Host turned its back,” said UNITE HERE Local 11 Director Robin Rodriguez.

This October, Host workers filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging it failed to pay wages they are owed under the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, despite numerous complaints from employees. The still-pending lawsuit also alleges that Host also failed to comply with California labor laws requiring employers to pay final wages to terminated employees immediately.

Following worker complaints, the Los Angeles City Council voted down a financial package for HMS Host estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars in lease extension-related revenue and rent relief.

Workers are now drawing attention to HMS Host’s alleged failure to make healthcare contributions to help maintain health care coverage for its laid-off workers. A health benefit fund covering its employees has informed HMS Host that it is delinquent in paying more than a million dollars in benefit contributions required under a City rent relief program for airport concessionaires.

“My family and I have had to make many sacrifices during this pandemic to make ends meet and it scares me to think I could lose my healthcare if HMS Host does not pay up what it should,” said Carlos Castillo, a bartender at HMS Host at LAX for 21 years.

HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in North America and at LAX. Its parent company, Autogrill, is owned by a family of Italian multi-billionaires whose holding corporation had assets valued at $13.8 billion last year.

HMS Host workers at LAX are over 90% people of color (including over 20% Black) and live in the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of its LAX workforce remains laid off.

LA City Council Votes NO on Millions in Relief to Airport Concessions Giant

Workers Applaud LA City Council Vote on Relief for Billionaire HMS Host

Los Angeles, CA: Today, the Los Angeles City Council stood with workers and unanimously voted down a relief and lease extension package for airport concessions giant HMS Host. The deal was estimated to be worth tens of millions in lease extension-related revenue and rent relief for HMS Host.

HMS Host workers install themselves outside Los Angeles City Hall

“I stand with hard-working Angelenos, and not multinational corporations that try to exploit them and steal their wages. I am happy to support struggling businesses at LAX that treat their workers properly, but refuse to offer that assistance to a company that has violated the living wage ordinance meant to protect LAX workers. I am proud that the City Council stands united in this effort,” said District 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin.

HMS Host at LAX worker Donisa Robinson shares her experience in a poster outside LA City Hall“I want to thank the Los Angeles City Council for standing with me and my coworkers. This pandemic has been devastating for many of us and to be seen and heard by our elected officials means so much to us,” said Donisa Robinson, a laid-off Sushi Chef at HMS Host.

After weeks of hearing from laid off airport workers about the devastating effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on workers and their families, the LA City Council once again did the right thing and stood by workers.

As detailed in a report released earlier this week by UNITE HERE Local 11, HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in the United States. It is wholly owned by Italian corporation Autogrill, which increased its cash balance by 60% in the first six months of 2020. Its laid off workers say they are now struggling to survive, provide for their families, stay safe, and keep their housing.

“Thank you to the leadership of Councilmember Mike Bonin, Nury Martinez and the entire council for standing with laid off LAX workers today and not giving a massive and undeserved handout to HMS Host. We need more elected leaders willing to stand up to big corporations and the hospitality industry who since day one have been doing nothing but taking advantage of the pandemic to hurt workers instead of help them,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

Last week, HMS Host workers filed a class action lawsuit alleging the company failed to pay workers the minimum living wages for airport workers required by Los Angeles’s Living Wage Ordinance. The suit also alleges that HMS Host failed to pay workers their vacation time when it carried out a mass layoff in March and April 2020. California law requires employers pay employees all earned wages and accrued vacation time immediately upon layoff.

Debbie Lewis, HMS Host worker and lawsuit plaintiff

LAX’s Largest Concessionaire HMS Host Faces Class Action Wage Lawsuit

Press Contact: Maria Hernandez | 623-340-8047 | mhernandez@unitehere11.org

Contact for Lawsuit: Lauren Teukolsky | 626-522-8982 x 101 | lauren@teuklaw.com

Copy of complaint here

Los Angeles, CA. Laid off airport workers announced a class action lawsuit on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall Thursday alleging that corporate giant HMS Host failed to pay wages owed its workers under the City’s Living Wage Ordinance and California law.

“Unemployed workers needed their earned wages in the middle of a global pandemic to pay for rent, groceries, medical bills and the other necessities of life. If our claims are successful, we estimate that Host could owe several millions of dollars in back wages and penalties. We hope that justice will prevail and these workers will be made whole,” said Lauren Teukolsky, an attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Lawyers and plaintiffs confer over class action lawsuit against HMS Host

The suit alleges that HMS Host has failed to pay the plaintiffs Debra Lewis, Marlene Mendoza, and Lotus Perez-Silva and other workers the minimum living wages for airport workers required by the Living Wage Ordinance and that the company failed to rectify the problem even in the face of multiple complaints from employees. The suit also alleges that HMS Host failed to pay workers their vacation time when it carried out a mass layoff in March and April 2020. California law requires employers pay employees all wages and accrued vacation time immediately upon layoff.

“Fifty cents per hour may not sound like a lot. Unused vacation pay may not sound like a lot. But to all of us who were laid off back in March, it means food, it means gas, it means shelter. That money can mean the difference between hope and hopelessness,” said Debra Lewis, a plaintiff in the case and HMS Host worker at LAX for 34 years. “I am proud to be standing up for myself and my coworkers and have filed this lawsuit to ensure we are paid everything we are owed under the law.”

Debbie Lewis, HMS Host worker and lawsuit plaintiff

HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in North America and at LAX. Its parent company, Autogrill, is owned by a family of Italian multi-billionaires whose holding corporation had assets valued at $13.8 billion last year and increased its cash balance by an estimated 60% in the first six months of this year.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have watched in horror as huge, wealthy companies have tried to cash in on programs meant to help small businesses and working families. And now HMS Host wants the same kind of benefit. It’s such a shame,” said Michelle Saylor, executive director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. 

HMS Host is presently seeking a relief package from the City of Los Angeles which UNITE HERE Local 11 estimates is worth more a $100 million in lease extension-related revenue and rent relief. HMS Host’s contract with the City and the terms of the proposed relief package require that it comply with wage laws. Workers are asking the City Council to reject the relief package for HMS Host, which may be voted on next week.

HMS Host LAX workers and Ron Herrera outside Los Angeles City Hall

“Airport workers like Debbie make LAX run, and the City of Los Angeles has a responsibility to them, not multi-billion-dollar companies like HMS Host. These workers have the full support of the LA Labor movement and we ask the City of Los Angeles to reject a lease and rent deduction package for HMS Host,” said Ron Herrera International Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The press conference comes the same day that HMS Host has announced what it has called a “permanent layoff” of hundreds of workers at airports in Orange County, CA, and elsewhere across the country. As of today, they will lose recall rights and the security of knowing they will be able to return to their jobs once the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

LAX airport workers rally as HMS Host workers announce class action lawsuit

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff workers by Lauren Teukolsky of Teukolsky Law, APC; Josh Young of Gilbert & Sackman, ALC; and Jeremy Blasi.

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UNITE HERE Local 11 is the union of more than 32,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas & convention centers in So. California & Arizona.

While Laid-off Workers Struggle to Survive, Corporate Giant HMS Host Seeks Millions in Extra COVID-19 Aid

Los Angeles, CA: Dozens of laid off airport workers protested outside the offices of concessions giant HMS Host Friday, claiming the company is past due on money it owes to its workers.

After delivering a “past due notice,” workers caravanned to the district offices of all fifteen L.A city councilmembers to urge them to reject a lease and rent reduction package for HMS Host currently awaiting the council’s vote.

Workers filed complaints with the City in 2019, alleging a failure to pay the applicable minimum wage to HMS Host workers. Workers have not received any payments to compensate them for the alleged minimum wage violations which are estimated to total more than $100,000.

Last week, the airport’s governing board, LAWA, approved a financial package for HMS Host and other companies worth millions of dollars. To be eligible for relief, concessionaires must be in compliance with all City ordinances. Workers assert that HMS Host’s failure to pay the unpaid wages as alleged in the workers’ complaints—despite reportedly being sent notices from the City to address the issue—makes them ineligible for relief.

HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in North America and at LAX. Its parent company, Autogrill, is owned by a family of Italian multi-billionaires whose holding corporation had assets valued at $13.8 billion last year.  Autogrill is reportedly negotiating an aid package with the Italian government worth over $350 million.

 The majority of HMS Host workers at LAX have been laid off since March; the workers are over 90% people of color, over 20% Black, and primarily live in the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.