LSG Sky Chefs workers protest at American Airlines headquarters

Fort Worth—LSG Sky Chefs union members protested outside the Fort Worth headquarters of American Airlines on Tuesday morning, Aug. 13 for higher wages and benefits.

While employees for catering contractor LSG Sky Chefs don’t work for American Airlines, they say the airline is responsible for their low wages through its contracting.

“We are out here today because we are fed up,” protester Stephanie Kopnanjs said. “We have been trying to talk to them, but they don’t want to listen to us. We are in front of them today to let them know we are fed up with this. We cannot take it anymore.

“We are a part of the airline industry too. When we talk about airline caterers, I’m sure most of the people think we are people who are paid big money to get into the plane, just like the flight attendants and the pilots. But we are the ones who actually make the planes move because we make food for a plane. I ask a question, ‘Who can fly a plane without food or coffee? None of us.’ That’s the reason why we are here today. That plane cannot go if the food is not there and we say we are ready.”

According to the union, wages at Sky Chefs are as low as $9.85 an hour and that is more than half of the workers.

“We need better pay for us to be able to make a living,” protestor Samuel Tangankwa, who has been with the company for 19 years. “For us to be able to pay our bills to support our family, that is the reason why we are here to fight and tell them. We are reminding American Airlines back in 2006 when they went down for concession, they took a lot of things away from us. They took our benefits, they took our vacation, personal days and many other things. And yet, they have not given that back to us since recovered from the bankruptcy. Instead, they have been making profits every year. They have not returned what they took from us. So we are asking them to return that and also give us a better pay, a decent pay.” 

Gene Lantz, communications director of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Dallas chapter was at the protest as well.

“This is an unprecedented coming together, not only of union members, but community, church and civil rights leaders,” Lantz said. “Lots of these people are not union members. I’ve gone around and met people from half a dozen unions and at least half a dozen other kinds of organizations. The organized working class cannot be defeated. We say that all the time. We don’t usually organize this well.”

The protest brought together a strong unity of many workers in support of the LSG Sky Chefs.

“We stand for unity of all workers,” Lantz said. “You know, most of the people we’re fighting for are immigrants. A lot of them are not American citizens. A lot of them are from West Africa. The point is that they are workers, and that unity of all workers is what’s going to win.”

Unite Here and LSG Sky Chefs have been negotiating a new contract since October. Lantz is confident the employees will win a fair contract.

“We’re going to win a contract for the LSG Sky Chefs workers for American Airlines,” Lantz said.  “But a lot of people that are here are here because of the Transport Workers Union, which is under fire from the Trump courts. There’s a crossover between what’s political and what strictly union business. People here are angry and upset. I think this is going to carry through to all of America, not only that we are ready to fight, but that there are people who know how to do it. And that’s the big lesson from today.” 

The first part of the battle has been won, according to Lantz. The next step will be to get a new contract.

“When they get a good contract, they will know that we won,” Lantz said.  “This particular aspect of it, we have already won the unity of workers with non-citizens, all people who work together. We have already won just by being here.”

Written by Tricia Sims