Many airline catering employees for Delta Airlines and other major airlines at Detroit airport voted 97% to strike, according to information released by the National Mediation Board.
The strike votes are also taking place at 21 cities this week and next. This is the largest vote that has ever happened in the U.S. airline catering industry.
Workers are demanding better wages and health care; they feel that one job should be enough. Detroit airport food worker Shandolyn Lewis said, "The airlines make billions off the backs of catering workers like me. I have to work almost 20 hours overtime every week to afford the $400 per month company insurance plan I need to tend to my daughter's chronic asthma." She voted yes because "We deserve more and because one job should be enough to survive in the City of Detroit."
Shandolyn is just one of many workers whose story is not abnormal. Months of bargaining and failure to secure a living wage, for workers in Detroit and beyond, are reasons why workers moved to strike.
With American, Delta and United earning more than $50 billion in combined profits over the past 5 years alone, only 47% of airline catering workers at Detroit airport had company insurance and fewer than 16% had a child or family member covered. 74% of Detroit airport food workers make less than $15 per hour, with the lowest wage being $11.25 per hour. 7% of workers have been there for over 20 years but makes less than $15 per hour, including 2 workers who have been there for over 30 years. 75% make below wage needed for 2 working adults and 2 kids to meet the minimum standard of living in the Detroit area, based on the MIT living wage calculator.
"Last year hotel workers at the Westin Book Cadillac demanded that one job should be enough, and won improvements to their wages, benefits and protections on the job. This year airline catering workers at Detroit airport are saying that one job should be enough for them too," said Unite Here Local 24 President Nia Winston. "Poverty and unattainable healthcare must end in the airline catering industry, and the working people who help make DTW one of the best airports in the country should be able to afford to feed their children and go to the doctor when they are sick."
She also believes that the results on the vote to strike are the beginning of change in the kitchens in Detroit and airports across the U.S.
The workers are members of Unite Here Local 24 and are employed by LSG Sky Chefs.
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