HMSHost employees announce return to work at Sky Harbor Airport after 10-day strike
Hospitality and concessions workers of HMSHost at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport announced they are returning to work and negotiations on Thursday after 10 days on strike, according to labor union UNITE HERE Local 11.
The union said its workers have been in negotiations since 2017 with HMSHost, the largest concessionaire at Sky Harbor. The union said it has been fighting 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 started striking on Nov. 22 and had extended permits with the Phoenix Aviation Department to strike through Dec. 29. For 10 days, workers and union representatives picketed, chanted and drummed outside Terminals 3 and 4 to make their demands heard.
Workers planned to raise concerns during one of the company's most profitable times of the year, striking through Thanksgiving weekend.
“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, a barista in Terminal 4. “We did that and now we are ready to go back to the negotiating table.”
"We know this company can do better," Stahl said in a union video. "We're the reason why this company has survived the pandemic, we're the reason why Sky Harbor is 'America's Friendliest Airport,' so, at the very least, we deserve what we have earned and worked for."
Over the course of the strike, the union filed multiple unfair labor practice charges against HMSHost for reportedly violating the workers’ rights to organize and strike.
Among other misconduct, the charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board allege that HMSHost violated workers’ federal labor rights by:
- Questioning workers concerning whether they would be supporting the union and going on strike.
- Limiting speech in the workplace.
- Threatening workers with discipline if they participate in a strike without prior notice.
- Surveilling workers' protected union 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 the union. “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 ... made this Thanksgiving one we will remember for the rest of our lives. Solidarity means everything.”
The return to work doesn't mean all demands have been met, though, the union insists.
"Along with issues like affordable health care 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 Nov. 18, the union asked the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate the company’s pay and promotion practices.
In a complaint filed with the commission, the union alleged that "during 2019, Black workers were paid on average only 67% of the total earnings of their white counterparts, and taking home an average of $9,539.49 less per year than white workers."
As the holiday season heads into full swing, the effects of the strike on the operation of Sky Harbor remain to be seen.
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