Background: We Fly for Justice!

The History of Airport Concession Jobs

Between 2007 and 2009, the Oakland International Airport experienced a near compete turnover of its food and beverage and retail outlets.  Previously a large unionized company had operated under a 30 thirty year lease.  Over those years airport concession workers were able to negotiate living wages, healthcare, retirement and other benefits.  Even so, profits for the company were good, and when the Port of Oakland put its food service and retail leases out to bid, dozens of companies large and small vied for the opportunity.

The Port of Oakland

The new leases included a number of provisions that were intended to protect the interests of both airport concession workers and the Port itself. The leases require tenants to:

  1. Follow the Port of Oakland Living Wage Law,
    1. Comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws, ordinances, rules and regulations respecting concessionaire’s use and occupation of the Premises, and all rules and regulations of the Port.
    2. Assure Labor Peace so that there shall be no picketing, work stoppages, boycotts or any other economic actions by or involving personnel employed in the concessions operations that interfere or disrupt the concessions operations

The Right to Organize

Each of the companies that leased directly with the airport signed a card check neutrality agreement with UNITE HERE, the union that represents 29,000 airport concession workers throughout North America.  Those agreements provided workers with a fair process through which they could freely choose whether or not to join the union.  In those agreements, the union agreed not to cause labor interruption.  As a result, between 2008 and 2011, 240 workers from three companies won union contracts that provided living wages, healthcare for themselves and their dependents, retirement benefits and other important rights on the job.

The Workers

The Oakland Airport’s primary food service contractor, HMS Host, has eight non-union subcontractors that operate restaurants or retail stores in the airport. For years, non-union airport workers in the subcontracted companies have been treated like second class citizens. None of the eight companies provides affordable healthcare or retirement benefits. Other common complaints include part-time employment, last-minute schedule changes and inadequate rest periods.  In fact, dozens of workers have filed complaints with the Port of Oakland alleging violations of even the Port’s living wage law. But unfortunately, none of the 8 companies subleasing from Host have agreed to sign card check neutrality agreements.  When the companies found out that their workers were circulating a petition asking them agree to a fair process for workers to decide if they wanted to join the union, many workers were immediately subjected to aggressive anti-union campaigning.

For example, at the Terminal 2 Subway, the most active worker leader had his shifts cut from the Airport Subway store where he earned the Port of Living Wage of $13.05 per hour. He was told that he could make up the hours at other Subway stores under the same managers, where he earns only the CA minimum wage of $8 per hour.  Workers at some of the other non-union businesses were told that their pay would be cut or that the business would have to close if the workers unionized.

The solution

Despite the pressure, workers throughout the airport are fed up with being treated like second-class citizens.  Worker leaders at the Oakland Airportare calling on the community to join them in their demand that all airport employers agree to a fair process for workers to decide whether to form a union.  Please join them.