For Immediate Release: November 26, 2019
Contact: Yimelka Morales ( 917-561-7504)

Workers and supporters call for American Airlines to address poverty wages, expensive health care in the airline catering industry

New York— Dozens were arrested and nearly 800 more demonstrated at JFK on one of the busiest travel days in the U.S. today—the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The protests were led by UNITE HERE Local 100-represented airline catering workers who provide inflight food and beverage services for major U.S. airlines, including American Airlines. Workers called on American to take urgent and necessary steps to ensure that workers who cater its flights are able to escape poverty and access healthcare. Airline catering workers from Local 100 joined national protests that took place in 17 U.S. cities.


Airline catering workers prepare, pack, and deliver food and beverages served aboard flights for American Airlines and other major U.S. airlines. Though their work is essential to airline operations at JFK, many workers depend on Medicaid for health care or go without any insurance. Meanwhile, American reported a 2018 annual profit of $1.9 billion.


“We’re out here protesting across the country because we’re sick and tired of being the lowest-paid and worst-treated workers in the airline industry,” said Nadia Small, who has worked catering flights from JFK for six years. “If this Thanksgiving is hard for travelers, think about our hardship. It’s life and death. Many of us don’t have any health insurance, or we take an expensive, low-quality plan that leaves us struggling with medical debt. We can’t pay our bills. One job should be enough for me and my coworkers, just like it’s enough for most other workers in this billion-dollar airline industry.”


Today’s protests are the latest in a series of demonstrations airports across the country calling attention to American Airlines. In addition to JFK, protests and/or acts of nonviolent civil disobedience took place in 17 cities including major airports in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. This past summer UNITE HERE airline catering workers at JFK voted unanimously to strike when released by the National Mediation Board. Federal mediation of contract negotiations continues.