Photo: Stephanie Davis / WWJ

Airline Catering Workers Call For Better Wages, Health Care Outside Detroit Metro Airport

"Stop being greedy."

July 03, 2019 - 9:07 pm

ROMULUS, Mich. (WWJ) -- Airline catering workers are begging for better wages and benefits as airlines turn record profits.

Dozens of Sky Chef employees protested outside the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport Wednesday afternoon, holding an informational picket. The workers with Unite Here Local 24 say while the airlines are making billions, they're barely able to make ends meet. Sky Chef is a global company that provides catering services for multiple airlines.

"Stop being greedy."

That's what Jessica Coleman of Inkster says is the message to airlines.

"Allow us to take care of our families and not have to struggle and work paycheck to paycheck. We would like to live a nice life, too, and provide a nice life for our kids," Coleman told WWJ's Stephanie Davis.

Officials with Unite Here say passengers are hitting the skies in record numbers, especially at times like this 4th of July holiday weekend. More travelers mens record profits for airlines like American, Delt and United, who have made a combined $50 billion in profits over the past five years.

Meanwhile, 74% of airline catering workers at DTW make less than $15 per hour and nearly 50% of the 20,000 employees that cater for the airlines don't have health insurance. U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, of Detroit, says that's an injustice.

"To me, this is the front line in fighting back against poverty," Tlaib said. "This is the front line in fighting for universal health care. You have three airline companies – United, American and Delta -- all three have made record profits in the last five years: $50 billion."

Tlaib noted that members of the union hadn't been planning to strike from the beginning -- they've been in negotiations for a new contract since 2015.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and Congressman Andy Levin joined the picket line, with Lawrence saying they must fight for the motto "one job is enough," meaning adults should be able to support themselves and their families without having to work multiple jobs.

"$15 an hour. And this we know: every last one of these airlines are putting forth record profits," Lawrence said. "They’re making profits because of your hard work, because of your customer service, because of your dedication to this company."

Unite Here officials say the lowest hourly wage in DTW’s kitchen is $11.25. Only 47 percent had the company health insurance in 2018; fewer than 16 percent had a child or family member covered. 75 percent make below the wage needed for two working adults with two kids to meet the minimum standard of living in the Detroit area, based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator, the union says.

Similar informational pickets were held at 30 airports across the U.S. on Wednesday, as millions took to the skies to travel for the holiday weekend.