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Sky Harbor Airport concession workers begin strike Monday

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Posted at 4:32 PM, Nov 21, 2021

PHOENIX — Ahead of the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel week, Sky Harbor Airport concession workers recently announced they will be on strike starting Monday through Nov. 29.

HMSHost, the company that manages most of the restaurants, bars, and shops at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, released the following statement Sunday regarding the strike.

Unite Here Local 11’s decision to strike only serves to hurt the traveling public and the HMSHost associates who continue to work during this difficult time. We are doing whatever it takes to minimize any inconvenience over this busy holiday travel time and have supplemented services with managers, temporary employees, and associates from other HMSHost locations, as well as increased our offerings of fresh, pre-packaged food items and self-pay stations. HMSHost has proposed best-in-class benefits and wage increases with enduring changes. We remain committed to shaping our industry and the communities we serve through diversity, outreach, and advocacy. 

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HMSHost was notified Saturday that Unite Here Local 11 was going on strike starting Monday, Nov. 22, and the strike was expected to last one week, through the Thanksgiving holiday.

Unite Here Local 11 announced Sunday that the strike is expected to impact travelers arriving and departing in both Terminals 3 and 4.

A spokesperson with Unite Here Local 11 released the following statement.

Workers are demanding 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 with UNITE HERE Local 11 have been in negotiations with HMS Host since 2017. Delays in settling a contract mean delays in wage increases and official COVID safety protocols during a global pandemic.

An HMSHost spokesperson said most restaurants, bars, and airline lounges will remain open except for two Starbucks located at Terminal 3 north and at the baggage claim in Terminal 4. Zinburger, which is already operating at a reduced schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, could temporarily close as well.

According to HSMHost, workers are offered 12% wage increases along with enhanced benefits including 90% of their associate's healthcare costs.

A spokesperson said HSMHost has a contingency plan in place to operate concessions at the airport that will "help minimize any inconvenience during this holiday travel time."

However, people like Tom Kelly, who was passing through Sky Harbor Monday, did it on an empty stomach.

"First thing, there was no place to eat. I got a three-hour layover.”

Victoria Smith is among those participating in the strike. She now makes $15 an hour but she is the breadwinner for her family.

"[...] and that bread will last only so long. I love peanut butter, don't get me wrong. I love peanut butter, but I started to get sick of peanut butter."

Smith says the busy holiday travel should make people realize how important the workers who are on strike are for the airport.

"It kind of just ended up to where we’re in our contract negotiations. Clearly it is an important week for travel. I think the absence of airport workers is really going to make people realize how important we are in making their experiences at an airport an enjoyable one,” she said.

Kelly, despite missing out on a meal during his layover, says he understands their circumstance.

You've got to do what you've got to do. They work hard. They don't get paid a lot. They're definitely required people."