On June 18 and 19, airline food workers who prepare, pack, and deliver food and beverages served onboard American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines flights departing from Honolulu Airport and Kahului Airport voted 100% to strike when released by the National Mediation Board. The strike votes in Honolulu and Kahului were part of the largest such vote ever to occur in the U.S. airline catering industry, with thousands of workers voting in 21 cities.
“I have worked at Gate Gourmet for 26 years, but I still make less than $16 an hour. One job should be enough to live in Hawaii. I am taking action for my family and for my coworkers so we can have a better life,” says Thien Hoang, a worker in Honolulu employed by Gate Gourmet, the second largest airline catering subcontractor in the U.S.
Negotiations are ongoing but have failed to secure offers to improve wages and health care benefits for airline catering workers in Honolulu, Kahului, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the three largest airlines in the country, American, Delta, and United, earned $50 Billion in combined profits over the past five years alone.
“That workers voted 100% today to strike when released should send a strong message to American, Delta, and United. The median wage of a Gate Gourmet worker in Hawaii is only $12.25 per hour. This has reached a crisis level—airline catering workers in Honolulu and Kahului need meaningful changes, and they need them right now,” says Eric Gill, Financial Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 5.
The workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 5 and employed by Gate Gourmet, the second largest airline catering subcontractor in the U.S. They will participate in their first public informational picket line post-vote on Wednesday, July 3 at Honolulu Airport. They will not stop work until authorized by the government.
Later this summer, UNITE HERE will request release to strike from the National Mediation Board, which would be followed by a 30-day cooling off period if granted. UNITE HERE is prepared to strike whenever it becomes lawful.