In These Times: Workers Try to Organize Airport Subway, Get Fired

OAKLAND, CA—This city is supposed to be a union town, but out at the airport, workers say they’re getting fired for trying to join one. The airport is administered by the Oakland Port Commission, whose members, appointed by the mayor, are mostly viewed as progressives. The commission has passed a living wage ordinance that not only sets a level much higher than state or national minimum wage laws, but also requires companies who rent space to respect the labor rights of their workers.

One of the workers fired recently is Hakima Arhab, who says she lost her job at the Subway concession after she complained about violations of the ordinance, and because she and her coworkers are trying to join UNITE HERE Local 2850.

Arhab told her story to Working In These Times:

I worked at Subway for a year and a half. When I got the job there I thought that I would have a better life. It should be a good job. I thought I’d have more money, and be able to afford a few more things for myself, and be able to send money to my home country, because I have family there. When I started at the airport I was getting $12.82 an hour, and then it went up to $13.05. Read the full article.

East Bay Express: Workers Allege Violations at Oakland Airport

The port and other governmental agencies are actively investigating several airport concessionaires for alleged wage, overtime, anti-union violations.

by Rachel Swan

Oakland’s 2002 living wage ordinance had honorable intentions: to provide family-sustaining jobs at the city’s port. Originally it applied only to businesses with twenty or more employees, but the port amended it in 2006 to cover a much broader swath of the maritime and aviation industry — including all businesses run by Oakland Airport’s primary contractor, HMSHost, and any subcontractor that signed a lease after 2006, regardless of size. The idea was not only to make sure a voter-approved ordinance had teeth, but also to ensure that port businesses hewed to the spirit of the law, and not just the letter.

Unfortunately, some businesses don’t share that vision: The operator of a See’s Candies franchise still refuses to abide by the living wage ordinance, citing a loophole that she says grandfathers her in. There is also evidence that a Subway franchise is violating overtime laws by assigning employees to work consecutive shifts at the airport sandwich shop and at a nearby gas station it owns, with no overtime pay. As of two weeks ago, Subway had also fired two of its workers, allegedly for union activity.

In fact, workers have filed a whole litany of complaints against the eight sublessee concessionaires at Oakland International Airport, some of which they expressed during a spirited public comment session at the July 26 Port Commission meeting. Complaints filed with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement accuse Subway of stiffing workers on overtime and ten-minute breaks, and of circumventing overtime laws by having employees clock in at different Subway locations — i.e., at Oakland Airport and the one on Washington Avenue, which are both owned by Navdeep and Gurinder Grewal. The Grewals referred all questions to their attorney, Michael Foster, who was unavailable for comment. Read the full article.

7/6/12: We Fly for Justice at OAK!

Rally for Good Jobs at OAK!
Friday, July 6, 11 am – 1 pm
Oakland Airport Terminal 2

MY NAME IS LIAM. I’m 24. This is my wife Erica and our 4-year-old daughters Li’ah and Li’eriah.

I work at the Subway in the Oakland Airport, and other Subway locations under the same managers. I WORK SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. Sometimes I go 2 months without a day off. I’ve never seen a dime of overtime. I barely have time to see my kids.

I HAVE NO HEALTH BENEFITS. When my girls get sick, I’m praying they get better on their own because I can’t take them to the doctor.

There are about 80 workers like me, employees of non-union food service subtenants at OAK. Airport food service workers that are union members get health care, fair schedules and RESPECT. We don’t have any of that. WE’RE LIKE THE SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS OF THE AIRPORT.

Now we are organizing to demand our rights! We want our bosses to agree to a fair process for us to decide if we want to join the union.

My managers found out I was organizing my co-workers. Within the week, they’d cut my regular work hours, taken me off the schedule for two days, and given me a final warning. But that didn’t stop me.

My co-workers and I are standing up for a better life. STAND WITH US!

Background on workers at the Oakland Airport

East Bay Express: Castlewood Lawyer Doctored Evidence?

3/14/12 – The attorney for the upscale Pleasanton country club that locked out its workers is now on the hot seat.
By Rachel Swan

If there’s one area in which Occupy Oakland excels, it’s bringing sex appeal to seemingly dry populist issues — like fair wages and labor laws. A couple weeks ago the movement cast its eye toward a protracted dispute between workers and management at Pleasanton’s Castlewood Country Club, which, it turned out, served as a perfect allegory of the One Percent attacking the little guy. In fact, it’s even more perfect than occupiers might have anticipated. Court documents suggest that one of Castlewood’s lawyers doctored evidence in the case so the country club wouldn’t have to pay locked-out workers at least $1.7 million in back pay.

The fight actually started two years ago, when Castlewood locked out staff members following a dispute over health care — the club’s new contract demanded hefty contributions from employees who’d previously received it for free. The new fees were $366.93 for single policies per month and $739.08 for families. The conflict remains unresolved and Castlewood has hired a full “replacement” staff while locked-out workers continue to picket every day. By the time Occupy Oakland got involved, the country club had already tried a series of tactics that could be deemed “coercive,” including allegedly pressuring workers to decertify their union.

Now a new wrinkle has appeared, and it can only add fuel to fire. On March 1, Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson wrapped up a hearing for a complaint that the National Labor Relations Board had issued against Castlewood, alleging that the lockout was unlawful. It actually isn’t illegal to lock out workers to goad them into submission after a contract dispute, but certain changes that Castlewood allegedly was proposing — like trying to abrogate the country club’s seniority system, and making union membership optional, rather than mandatory — showed that Castlewood wasn’t just trying to win a fight over health care. It appears that it was trying to destroy the union, and replace a full staff of bartenders, janitors, and kitchen helpers with people who will do the same job at a lower price. And, union reps say, the country club has been obfuscating those intentions. Read the full article.

Mercury News: Occupy Oakland forces to join labor protest march to Castlewood Country Club on Saturday

2/24/12 – PLEASANTON — Protests over the lockout of cooks and cleaners at the Castlewood Country Club will ramp up Saturday when members of the Occupy movement join labor leaders in a march from downtown to the club.

Some from Occupy Oakland plan to pitch tents near the country club temporarily in a show of sympathy for workers on the two-year anniversary of the lockout, according to a notice from the group.

This is not the first labor protest at the club, but it could be the biggest. Organizers say they expect people from Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco to come. Read the full article.

2/25/12: 2 Years in the Streets – Fighting for the 99%!

We work at a playground for millionaires. Two years ago, they threw us out on the street because we wouldn’t give up affordable health insurance for our families.

We’re fighting for health care for our children.

We’re fighting for work with dignity.

We’re fighting to show the 1% that we are human beings.

We’re fighting for you.


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SATURDAY, February 25th, 2012
9:30 am
Meet at the corner of Bernal Ave and Main St, Pleasanton. March to Castlewood.

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PLEASE RSVP and invite friends – this is going to to be one of our biggest actions ever. Please let us know if workers can make a presentation at your school, union, community group, GA or encampment! For questions or rides, contact Matt at [email protected] or 510-239-3472.