Over 1,000 Food Workers Are On Strike At San Francisco International Airport

Anyone with plans to travel via the San Francisco airport might consider bringing their own meals, snacks, and other refreshments, at least today — and quite possibly for the foreseeable future. SF Gate reports most of the airport's food retailers, from quick-stop coffee shops to full-service bars and restaurants, are either closed or operating with skeleton staff. The reason might cause the newly minted labor organizers at Starbucks and Trader Joe's to cheer. 

On the morning of Monday, September 26, an estimated 1,000 food service workers at the San Francisco International Airport initiated a strike, even though rallies were getting underway 10 days prior, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The workers seek a pay raise for the time first in three years, according to Twitter. The food service employees are members of Unite Here Local 2, a 15,000-member labor union based in the San Francisco area. 

CNN Business reports the union workers are held to a multi-employer joint labor agreement that includes 30 employers and 84 food establishments at the airport. The union is tasked with negotiating on behalf of the workers regarding the terms of their employment, including compensation and benefits. SF Gate says the strike happened after nine months of negotiations showed no end in sight. 

Workers say they cannot live on current wages

Under their current agreement, food service members of Unite Here Local 2 at the San Francisco Airport are making, on average, $17.05 per hour, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The city's minimum wage is currently at $16.99 per hour. CNN reports workers at properties owned by the city, which includes the airport, are entitled to a higher wage of $19.15 per hour, but because the union's labor agreement was signed in 2018, workers' current wages don't reflect the higher rate. At the same time, CNN says the workers, as backed by the union, do not wish to have to give up their existing health care benefits — and this appears to have been a point of contention in the now-stalled negotiations. 

"Nine months of negotiations got us nowhere," said Local 2's president, Anand Singh, in a statement to the SF Chronicle, and "workers are tired of working two or even three jobs just to survive." The article reports approximately 10% of these workers have been working at least two different jobs in order to afford San Francisco's high cost of living. 

As of August 2022, SF Gate finds nearly 100% of Local 2's workers voted to authorize the strike, which is now ongoing. Neither the local news outlet nor CNN received comment thus far from restaurant representatives. The SFO airport issued a statement to passengers indicating it regrets the inconvenience. Meanwhile, California is considering a significant bump in fast-food service minimum wages.