Catering em­ploy­ees stage protest

58 ar­rested, fined at AA cam­pus in catering work­ers’ demon­stra­tion

The Dallas Morning News - - FRONT PAGE - By KYLE ARNOLD Staff Writer [email protected]­las­news.com

About 600 demon­stra­tors blocked traf­fic Tues­day to the Amer­i­can Air­lines cam­pus in Fort Worth, protest­ing pay and ben­e­fits at LSG Sky Chefs, which has 926 work­ers at DFW In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Po­lice ar­rested, re­leased and fined 58. The Unite Here union faults Amer­i­can be­cause it sets con­tracts and rates for ven­dors.

Fort Worth po­lice ar­rested, re­leased and fined 58 catering work­ers and other protesters who blocked traf­fic to Amer­i­can Air­lines’ head­quar­ters Tues­day.

The ar­rests were part of a coordinate­d demon­stra­tion of civil dis­obe­di­ence on be­half of 11,000 air­line catering work­ers across the coun­try who are bar­gain­ing for bet­ter wages and ben­e­fits from their em­ployer, LSG Sky Chefs.

About 600 sup­port­ers showed up at the protest, in­clud­ing catering work­ers at DFW In­ter­na­tional Air­port along with union mem­bers from other air­ports and lo­cal sup­port­ers such as Amer­i­can Air­lines me­chan­ics.

The union and work­ers say much of the blame for their low pay rests with Amer­i­can Air­lines be­cause the car­rier dic­tates con­tracts and rates to com­pa­nies such as LSG Sky Chefs. The com­pany has 926 catering work­ers at DFW Air­port.

“Amer­i­can Air­lines is mak­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in profit and they are do­ing it on the backs of th­ese work­ers,” said Pre­ston Strick­land, a catering worker at DFW Air­port.

The Unite Here union that rep­re­sents catering work­ers said that more than half of LSG Sky Chefs catering work­ers make less than $11.35 an hour.

Led by a po­lice es­cort, protesters marched and chanted, then briefly blocked the in­ter­sec­tion of Trin­ity and Post Oak boule­vards be­fore march­ing on nearby side­walks. The group also blocked the en­trance to Amer­i­can Air­lines’ head­quar­ters, and that’s where the ar­rests took place.

The ar­rests were coordinate­d with the Fort Worth Po­lice De­part­ment in ad­vance, said spokesman Jimmy Pol­lozani. Protesters briefly blocked the street and were met by Fort Worth bike of­fi­cers. The protesters then stood up and were es­corted to a po­lice van.

The ar­rested protesters were taken to a lo­cal fire hall, ar­raigned by a mag­is­trate and given civil ci­ta­tions of $369 for ob­struct­ing traf­fic, he said.

“Ob­vi­ously, there was a lot of plan­ning that went into this,” Pol­lozani said.

Pol­lozani said all 58 protesters peace­fully sub­mit­ted to the po­lice. Ci­ta­tions were not crim­i­nal and “more like a traf­fic vi­o­la­tion,” he said. The union planned to pay fines for those ar­rested.

LSG and the union have been ne­go­ti­at­ing for a new con­tract since May, but ten­sions have es­ca­lated in re­cent weeks with more protests. The work­ers aren’t al­lowed to strike with­out fed­eral ap­proval un­der rules for all air­line work­ers. Ear­lier this month, Unite Here asked for per­mis­sion to strike.

“Our com­pany has of­fered im­prove­ments in wages, and is dis­cussing nu­mer­ous other is­sues cov­ered by our collective bar­gain­ing agree­ment,” said a state­ment from LSG Sky Chefs. “While this is a short pe­riod of time to ne­go­ti­ate a com­plex la­bor agree­ment, we feel progress is be­ing made with the help of the fed­eral mediator.”

The protest didn’t cause much dis­rup­tion to busi­ness at Amer­i­can Air­lines. Po­lice di­rected driv­ers to take other roads and Amer­i­can Air­lines told em­ploy­ees to use other en­trances to get into the head­quar­ters cam­pus.

A spokesman for Amer­i­can Air­lines said the com­pany re­spects the right to protest and bar­gain for a new con­tract.

“We be­lieve in the collective bar­gain­ing process, and so we are con­fi­dent that LSG Sky Chefs and Unite Here will come to an agree­ment that in­creases pay and ben­e­fits for LSG’S em­ploy­ees and en­sures LSG can con­tinue to op­er­ate suc­cess­fully,” said a state­ment from Amer­i­can Air­lines spokesman Josh Freed. “We un­der­stand that a new con­tract will, ul­ti­mately, in­crease the costs to LSG Sky Chef’s cus­tomers, in­clud­ing Amer­i­can.”

Lynda M. Gon­za­lez/staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Pho­tos by Lynda M. Gon­za­lez/staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Fort Worth po­lice said the 58 protesters ar­rested out­side Amer­i­can Air­lines’ head­quar­ters sub­mit­ted peace­fully. They were ar­raigned by a mag­is­trate and given civil ci­ta­tions of $369 for ob­struct­ing traf­fic. The Unite Here union plans to pay the fines.

Robert Lee was among about 600 protesters Tues­day at the Amer­i­can Air­lines cam­pus. LSG Sky Chefs has 926 catering work­ers at DFW In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Lynda M. Gon­za­lez/staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Nia Win­ston, gen­eral vice pres­i­dent of the Unite Here union, ad­dressed the work­ers at­tend­ing the rally out­side the Amer­i­can Air­lines head­quar­ters in Fort Worth.

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