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.

LAX Workers Protest Alleged Violation of LAX Minimum Wage Law

Activists claim HMS Host is Ineligible for Rent Relief

Los Angeles, CA: Laid-off concessions workers spoke outside Terminal 4 on Thursday claiming that multibillion-dollar concessionaire HMS Host is ineligible for rent relief due to an outstanding violation of the LAX living wage law. Workers filed complaints with the City in 2019, alleging a failure to pay the minimum wage to HMS Host workers. Workers have not received any payments to compensate them for the alleged minimum wage violation.

This comes on a day when LAWA is considering an extensive second relief package for concessions companies. To be eligible for relief, concessionaires must be in compliance with all City ordinances.

“No company can get away with paying below the minimum wage here at the airport, especially not the big rich ones like HMS Host,” said Marlene Mendoza who was worked at HMS Host at LAX for 32 years. “If the airport keeps giving them money even if they don’t follow the rules, why would they ever follow the rules? No more relief for HMS Host!”

Marlene Mendoza.jpeg

HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in the United States. It is owned by Italian giant Autogrill, which is controlled by the billionaire Benetton family and their global holding firm Edizione. Edizione assets were valued at $13.8 billion at the end of 2019. Autogrill is reportedly negotiating an aid package with the Italian government worth over $350 million dollars.

“For many workers, this back pay is worth hundreds of dollars. Right now, when we are laid-off indefinitely, this money is more important than ever. It means food, it means gas, it means shelter. I can’t believe Host still hasn’t paid us” said Debra Lewis who has worked at HMS Host at LAX for 34 years.

Hundreds of laid-off HMS Host are struggling to stay fed, pay rent, and keep their families safe and healthy during the pandemic. Over 90% of LAX concessions workers are people of color and over 20% are Black.

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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.

HMS Host “Die-In” at LAX

On September 3, 2020, dozens of predominantly black and brown front-line airport workers staged a “die-in” inside the  Tom Bradley Terminal in LAX calling for the need to extend healthcare for laid-off airport workers during the pandemic.  The theatrical action coincided with a meeting of LAWA, the airport’s governing body. Workers are calling upon LAWA to ensure that part of any rent relief for concessionaires is passed on to workers through extended healthcare coverage.

Frontline LAX Workers Stage “Die-In” for Extended Healthcare

Frontline LAX Workers Stage “Die-In” for Extended Healthcare Amid COVID-19 Health Crisis

“Hundreds of laid-off workers have spoken at LAWA since the pandemic began.  We have told the board about our families need for extended health insurance.  But it has not been enough.   LAWA is considering millions of dollars more in relief for companies. Thousands of LAX workers facing the loss of healthcare for themselves and their families in a pandemic.  Their lives are at stake,” Robin Rodriguez, Organizing Director UNITE HERE Local 11.

Workers of color at LAX have been some of the hardest hit during this pandemic.  At LAX, upwards of 90% of the concession’s workforce are people of color and over 20% of this workforce is Black. Thousands have been laid off due to COVID-19 and are struggling to make rent, with no secure date of return nor a promise of continued healthcare coverage throughout the pandemic.

HMS Host and Areas USA, the two largest concessionaires at LAX who employ a total of about 1700 workers, have refused to make any additional health care payments for their laid-off employees. Other companies at LAX, like Duty Free Shops, Hudson News and Delaware North Companies, have paid additional months of healthcare for their laid-off workers.

“I have given my life to this airport.  My co-workers have given their lives to this airport.  My company has access to millions and millions of dollars.  I do not.  They can afford to extend our healthcare.  Without healthcare we are at higher risk of losing our lives to COVID.  LAWA should not give relief to them unless they do,” Marlene Mendoza, a server of 32 years at LAX for HMS Host.

Since the pandemic began, HMS Host has received relief worth millions of dollars from state and local governments, and its parent company, Italian giant Autogrill, is negotiating an aid package with the Italian government reportedly worth over $350 million dollars.  Areas USA is owned by Paris-based private equity firm PAI Partners, which has $16 billion under management, including $177 million from the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA).

“We want LAX and LAWA to do the right thing and extend our healthcare. My entire family depends on me for it. I have two young daughters and don’t know what I would do if they got sick,” Elizabeth Mejia, server for AREAS USA at LAX Airport for 8 years.

The City of Los Angeles approved a temporary rent relief package in April for LAX concessionaires requiring recipients of relief to pay for additional healthcare for laid-off workers.  With the pandemic continuing, workers are now seeking to ensure that any new relief for companies include further extended healthcare for laid-off workers and are calling upon companies to participate and extend workers’ healthcare.