Press Contact: Maria Hernandez | 623-340-8047 | [email protected]
Contact for Lawsuit: Lauren Teukolsky | 626-522-8982 x 101 | [email protected]
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.