Airline food workers who supply Delta planes at MSP vote to strike

Staff voted overwhelmingly to strike over wages and health benefits.
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Airline food workers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have voted to strike over wages and healthcare.

Some 450 LSG Sky Chef workers represented by the UniteHere Local 17 union voted 99.7 percent on Thursday to strike if and when released by the National Mediation Board, which must authorize a strike.

The workers supply a number of airlines with food for flights, among them Delta, the biggest airline at MSP.

They have been negotiating with Sky Chefs, which is a subsidiary of German airline giant Lufthansa, to improve wages and health care benefits, but "failed to secure offers" from the company.

The union points out that the country's three largest airlines – American, Delta and United – "earned $50 billion in combined profits over the past five years alone," yet the workers who supply those companies are being left behind.

One of those employed at Sky Chefs' MSP kitchen, Jemal Dube, said he pays $350-a-month in healthcare premiums for himself and his children, yet "still get medical bills constantly."

Another Sky Chefs employee, Nurto Ali, said he earned $11.15-an-hour and "can't afford an apartment of my own," nor can he afford health insurance.

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"That workers voted 99.7% yes to strike when released should send a strong message to Delta Air Lines," said Christa Mello, President of UNITE HERE Local 17. "MSP is one of their hubs but some food workers serving them here earn even less than the City of Minneapolis minimum wage.

"This has reached a crisis level at MSP – airline catering workers in the Twin Cities need meaningful changes, and they need them right now."

In a statement to BMTN, LSG Sky Chefs said: "Our company values the hard work and dedication of our team members. Wages, as well as other benefits, including vacations, uniforms, and company provided meals, as well as health and welfare, are subject to the collective bargaining process between our company and their union representatives.

"We are currently in negotiations regarding our Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Union, and we are continuing to negotiate in good faith. It is important to note that our industry is governed by the national Railroad Labor Act which prohibits employees from legally striking without a formal release from the National Mediation Board (NMB). At the present time, we have no confirmation of a formal request to the NMB for a release."

The strike vote came on the same day that nurses at Children's Hospitals of Minnesota authorized a strike because of similar complaints about health insurance and wages.

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