You may have seen a lot of headlines this week about a potential strike by union members from two airline catering companies. What is their beef? How would a strike impact you? Let’s explore the issues at stake.
Who is striking?
Workers from Gate Gourmet and Sky Chefs, the two largest catering companies, have authorized a strike over stagnant wages. No strike has been announced yet. Negotiations are ongoing. These workers supply food for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines (among others).
Are there any other parties involved?
Unions are also trying to bring workers from Chelsea Food Services, United’s internal catering company. At some U.S. hubs, United’s catering is in-house.
What is the main issue of contention?
Most airline food workers earn less than $15/hour and some workers make as little as $8.46/hour. Unions argue this renders works unable to meet basic living expenses like healthcare for their families. Unions are seeking an unspecified “living wage” for all workers.
How many workers does this impact?
A strike could send 7,700 Sky Chefs, 3,270 Gate Gourmet, and 2,600 Chelsea Food Services employees to the picket lines.
What must happen before a strike occurs?
Unions would need permission from the National Mediation Board (NMB) before launching a strike. The NBB is an offspring of the Railway Labor Act , which is intended to minimize disruptions to interstate commerce by transportation sector strikes.
Is there hope for a deal?
Both sides are optimistic that a deal can be worked out in ongoing talks. Nevertheless, off-duty workers plan to picket in the weeks ahead.
What happens if the unions decide to strike?
Should the unions decide to strike without permission form the National Mediation Board (NMB), we could a see a situation similar to President Ronald Reagan’s firing of Air Traffic Controllers in 1981. Airlines are already lining up back-up workers and stocking up on supplies to minimize passenger disruption from a potential strike.
It is too premature to assume a strike will happen, especially as both sides continue to bargain. Should a strike occur, impact would likely be minimal, though you may find higher rates of miscatering than usual.
image: Gate Gourmet