Catering employees stage protest
58 arrested, fined at AA campus in catering workers’ demonstration
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.”
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.
Nia Winston, general vice president of the Unite Here union, addressed the workers attending the rally outside the American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth.