UNITE HERE, the union representing the catering workers employed by LSG Sky Chefs, is seeking government agency approval that would allow for a strike. Though negotiations take place with the subcontractors, workers say the airlines must also take responsibility for worker conditions. The practice of subcontracting allows companies like American Airlines to escape accountability. While airlines might try to absolve themselves from the poor conditions brought upon by the companies they subcontract from, organizers argue they still hold immense power in the negotiation process.
That’s why, as Kopnang told Inequality.org, it’s important to bring the fight to the companies that ultimately allow those conditions to continue. “We will be in Dallas [on August 13]. The hometown where American Airlines lives.” While American Airlines has dropped massive sums on a flashy new campus, Kopnang points out, the caterers who prepare the meals on the airlines can’t pay their rent.
That kind of greed hurts workers across the industry. American Airlines alone pulled in $1.9 billion in profits in 2018, even as their subcontracted workers aren’t paid a living wage. Other airline industry workers, who joined them in solidarity at the protest, could relate.
“[American Airlines] outsourced these jobs,” Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told the crowd. “They set up a scam where they can have contractors bid against each other for the lowest price. We know your scam because you used it on flight attendants too.”
Captain Joe DePete, the president of the airline pilot’s union, told the crowd that the fight for $15 an hour in the richest country in the world is not a radical demand. A fair wage is a necessary precursor to the “safety, and dignity of work.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren echoed DePete’s remarks to a roaring crowd. “This is not a fight for just the workers here. This is a fight for all of America. It is a fight for fair wages. It is a fight for healthcare. It is a fight for dignity,” Warren said. “The people on the frontlines are locked in poverty. This is why we fight back.”