Fort Worth

Catering Workers, Union Members Picket Outside American Airlines Headquarters

Fort Worth police say 58 workers were fined $274 each for violating a city code against obstructing streets and sidewalks

Hundreds of workers picketed outside American Airlines corporate headquarters in Fort Worth Tuesday morning, as an ongoing labor dispute hit a fever pitch.

Many of those who rallied are employees of a company called LSG Sky Chefs, which provides catering services on board American Airlines flights.

LSG Sky Chefs and UNITE HERE, the union representing the workers, have been working with a federal mediator since May on a new collective bargaining agreement.

According to union leaders, the negotiations have hit a stalemate. And they've requested to be released from mediation.

They say many of the workers don't earn a living wage and their benefits package is such that they can't afford health insurance.

Preston Strickland, a worker who attended Tuesday's rally, says the only reason he's able to afford an apartment is because he gets a lot of overtime hours.

"I'm single -- and for me to have health insurance is $51 a week," said Strickland. "That's $200 some odd dollars a month that I can't afford... a lot of my co-workers have second jobs. We think one job should be enough."

Although American is not directly involved in the negotiations, UNITE HERE believes the airline can put pressure on LSG Sky Chefs to come back to the table with a more favorable deal.

Union leaders went so far as to say LSG Sky Chefs "may be unable to resolve the dispute without consent from American Airlines on the financial terms."  

"We work so hard trying to make this money to survive," said Strickland. "So we feel like we should talk to American Airlines and Sky Chefs and let them know y'all should pay us. Because we make you the billionaires that y'all are."

American Airlines says it respects and supports the rights of workers to join a union and bargain collectively.

"We believe in the collective bargaining process, and so we are confident that LSG Sky Chefs and Unite Here will come to an agreement that increases pay and benefits for LSG’s employees and ensures LSG can continue to operate successfully," the company wrote in a statement. "We understand that a new contract will, ultimately, increase the costs to LSG Sky Chef’s customers, including American.  While we are not part of the ongoing negotiations, we urge both LSG Sky Chefs and Unite Here to bargain in good faith and get a deal done."

LSG Sky Chefs also provided NBC 5 with a written statement. It reads:

"Our negotiating team and a federal mediator have been working since May 2019 to negotiate in good faith with the union representing our employees. Our company has offered improvements in wages, and is discussing numerous other issues covered by our collective bargaining agreement. While this is a short period of time to negotiate a complex labor agreement, we feel progress is being made with the help of the federal mediator. We remain committed to negotiating in good faith, and we hope that union members will act lawfully as they exercise their right to demonstrate or protest."

During Tuesday's demonstrations, several members of the union group sat in the roadway and blocked the entrance to American Airlines headquarters, with the goal of getting arrested for civil disobedience. 

Fort Worth Police monitored the entire event to ensure everyone's safety.

When officers indicated the "arrestees" were out of verbal warnings to leave the street, they stood up on their own and walked to nearby vans, where they were detained. 

Fort Worth Police say 58 people were given a $274 fine for obstructing the free use of streets and sidewalks.

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