UNITE HERE-represented catering workers call on members of Congress to demand the airlines take responsibility for the crisis of poverty in kitchens at airport hubs across the country.

On January 15th, UNITE HERE union leaders in the airline catering industry testified before the House Subcommittee on Aviation in a hearing on Oversight of Working Conditions for Airline Ground Workers, focusing on their personal experiences of a “crisis of unaffordable health care” in the industry. In addition to oral testimony from a UNITE HERE affiliate leader, written testimony from workers who service American, Delta, and United Airlines flights at their hubs in Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, and Washington, D.C. supplied their written testimony.

UNITE HERE Local 100 Airline catering workers from the New York area, watched the hearing from outside of their kitchen .

“I stopped by to watch the hearing and I agree its time that the goverment releases us we need deserve better Health insurance and benefits now ! ” says Robert Ortiz, an airline catering worker at John F. Kennedy airport, who was about to begin  his shift. 

Airline catering workers prepare, pack, and deliver food and beverages served aboard United, Delta and American flights. Predominantly people of color and immigrants, catering workers earn some of the lowest wages in the airline industry, and many are unable to afford employer health care coverage because it is prohibitively expensive.

According to a survey of 2,240 out of approximately 14,000 airline catering workers that UNITE HERE conducted in 2018, nearly 1 in 3 workers depend on government care for either themselves or their children, 25% reported being uninsured, and 26% reported skipping or delaying doctor or hospital care, prescriptions, or other necessary medical treatment for themselves or their families in the past 12 months because of the cost their families would have to pay.

In June, more than 15,000 airline catering workers voted to authorize a strike if released by the National Mediation Board. UNITE HERE members in cities across the country have participated in airport protest actions, including a national mobilization on November 26 that saw 200 people participate in civil disobedience at seven airports.

Watch the full hearing here