Twenty LAX catering workers plan to launch a three-day fast beginning Wednesday, Feb. 12 in an effort win the affordable health care and fair wages they say they deserve.
The LSG Sky Chefs employees, represented by Unite Here Local 11, claim they lack affordable health benefits and are struggling to achieve economic security.
In a 2019 union survey among 124 of the 900 LSG Sky Chefs workers at Los Angeles International Airport, 27% reported skipping or delaying care, prescriptions or medical treatment for themselves or their families because they couldn’t afford to pay for it.
‘Can’t afford it’
Margarita Hernandez is among them. The 68-year-old Hawthorne resident earns $15.25 an hour and pays $200 a month for health insurance.
“I recently had a vein pop in one of my eyes but the insurance doesn’t cover that,” Hernandez said in a November interview. “I need to go to a specialist, but I can’t afford that.”
Negotiating in good faith
In a statement issued Tuesday, LSG Sky Chefs said its negotiating team and a federal mediator have been working since May to negotiate in good faith with Unite Here.
“Our company has offered improvements in wages and is discussing numerous other issues covered by our collective bargaining agreement,” the company said. “We feel progress is being made with the help of the federal mediator.”
During the three-day fast, the workers will abstain from food and drink only water to bring attention to their concerns. Prominent community leaders, clergy, and politicians are expected to attend the event, and state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, and Ron Herrera president of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, will join them in the fast, the union said.
The first day of fasting will run from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday near 6901 W. Imperial Highway in Inglewood. On Thursday, it will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the airport’s upper departures level between Tom Bradley International Terminal and Terminal 4. The third day will run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the same upper-level location.
The event was inspired by catering employees who staged a six-day fast at Miami International Airport during Super Bowl LIV week. Hundreds of airline catering workers in a dozen U.S. cities, including Seattle, New York, Boston and San Francisco, are expected to hold similar actions Friday, Feb. 14.
Lawsuit alleges unpaid overtime
A group of LAX catering workers filed a lawsuit against Sky Chefs on Dec. 11, alleging they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime. The action was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by four employees on behalf of themselves and other Sky Chefs workers who may have been shortchanged from Jan. 1, 2019 to the date of the filing.
Employees claim Sky Chefs calculates their overtime pay based on a wage below the minimum for workers serving LAX as required in the city’s Living Wage Ordinance, California Labor Code and IWC Wage Order 5-2001. One plaintiff said the company underpaid him $3.74 per hour for overtime.
“Under that policy the minimum hourly wage for workers without company health benefits is $20.59,” Unite Here spokeswoman Maria Hernandez said. “But those with health care benefits are making a minimum of $15.25 an hour.”
The lawsuit alleges Sky Chefs created a lower wage by calling the difference between regular wage rates and the Living Wage Ordinance minimum a “market rate adjustment,” ignoring the adjustment when calculating overtime pay.
The group is seeking class-action certification for its lawsuit.
The workers are directly employed by Sky Chefs LSG, a division of Texas-based Sky Chefs Inc., but work under contracts with American, Aeromexico, Air New Zealand, Korean Air and Alaska Airlines.Related Articles
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