San Diego Airport Workers Protest for Job Retention

Over one hundred airport workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 30, rallied on July 25 outside Lindbergh Field’s Terminal 1, home of Southwest Airlines at the San Diego Airport. Airport workers take issue with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s recommendations for its new retail concessions.

“I’ve worked at this Airport for decades, through numerous transitions,” said Donna Hernandez, a 40 year concessions employee at San Diego International. “We’re making noise today because right now retail workers don’t have any guarantee to keep their working standards when the new terminal opens.”

In the last week, the Airport issued its recommendations for new food and retail concessions planned to begin at the end of 2012. Of the four major concessionaires recommended for the bulk of the new retail operations, three have not made commitments to avoid labor disputes and ensure a smooth transition. The uncertainty on retail is at odds with the Airport’s decisions on food concessions, where the recommended companies have committed to a comprehensive transition plan that includes assuming all of the costs associated with the massive workforce transition.

Picket Line at SDCC

We had the first picket line at the San Diego Convention Center in the afternoon on 05/11/2011. We are telling Centerplate, people in San Diego and visitors that workers are fed up being trated unfairly and will fight for our rights. The workers are going to fight until Centerplate recognize their hard work and settle the contract.

Westin San Diego Workers Win Union

In San Diego, 130 workers at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter have joined UNITE HERE Local 30. An overwhelming majority of workers signed cards in support of the union. Local 30’s Westin organizing comes on the heels of last year’s successful organizing drive at the 800-room Hilton San Diego Bayfront. The Westin committee began bargaining with Starwood last week for their first contract.

UNITE HERE Local 30 Raises Standards as San Diego Airport Concessions Transition

As San Diego International Airport moves forward with a redevelopment of its food and retail offerings, concessionaires from around the country have been eyeing the Airport for business opportunities. But they’re not the only ones paying attention to the changes that are coming.

On April 27, airport workers represented by UNITE HERE Local 30 overwhelmingly ratified a new contract with their employer, HMS Host, the airport concessions industry’s largest company. The new contract raises standards for Airport workers through guaranteed wage increases of over $2.50/hour over the next five years. The deal also strengthens the workers’ retirement plan and extends access to free, quality family healthcare coverage to all fulltime employees.
“This contract is just one part of airport workers’ long term effort to make airport jobs good jobs,” said Brigette Browning, President of UNITE HERE Local 30. “Now we are going to focus our energy to ensure working conditions and customer service standards at SAN are maintained by any new concessionaires that get selected. The traveling public in San Diego deserves nothing less.”

The new contract comes on the heels of the union’s successful lobbying last year to make worker retention a part of the RFP process. The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority unanimously demanded that worker retention programs be included with all competing proposals. The Airport Authority also provided additional weight to proposals that go beyond the basic retention requirements.

The union’s industry analysts say the new deal ensures that the union will continue to lead the way in wage, benefit and customer service standards at San Diego International, but sets up the potential for conflict with concessions proposers.
“These standards will certainly be a factor in San Diego’s concessions redevelopment,” said Blake Harwell, Policy Director of UNITE HERE’s Airport Group, the union’s New York based policy and development arm that analyzes North American airport concessions. “Proposers should factor these standards into their financial submittals so they avoid explaining later to the Airport Authority how their deal economics didn’t work because they underestimated their compensation, benefits and retention plans. The Airport Authority has already shown it is mindful of ensuring continuity for incumbent employees.”

The airport begins its review process in the coming weeks with recommendations expected this summer for new concessions that would open beginning in 2013. On Wednesday Airport workers celebrated their new contract and expressed their insistence that new companies closely match the new standards.

“I have been fortunate to have an airport job with a collective bargaining agreement,” said Cece Vargas, a bartender with 35 years of service at the Airport. “All the employees at Lindbergh Field are very happy to have finally signed the new contract and we hope that any additional concessions companies selected for the airport will follow Host’s example.”

UNITE HERE Local 30 is San Diego’s hotel workers union, representing approximately 4,500 hospitality and tourism workers throughout San Diego County.

For Immediate Release
April 28, 2011
Dan Rottenstreich
Blake Harwell

Job Retention Approved by the Airport Authority

On Monday, Dec. 20 the Airport Authority borad of directors unanimously adopted a worker retention policy for Food and Beverage, Retail and Parking Employees! The policy states:

  • New companies have to retain all workers who have 1 year seniority or more.
  • New companies can only terminate employees for cause during the first 90 days.
  • New companies have to interview and hire from the existing workforce for first six months or until HMS Host completely closes (that means as new stores open, the new companies have to hire workers who were not initially retained).
  • Only exceptions are for small businesses with less than 10 workers, managers and positions that require very specialized skills.

This is a huge victory for Airport workers and our union.
Now that our jobs are secure, we need to keep organizing to win high standards and organizing rights from all companies bidding on SAN’s concessions Thank you to everyone who turned out tothe Airport Authority meetings, leaflets and union meetings to make this victory possible.