UNITE HERE Local 2, SFO Restaurant Owners Reach Deal
New contract protects jobs and health care, increases wages
Local 2 members were joined on the picket lines at SFO Terminal 2 December 12 by members of the Teamsters, Machinists, and SEIU.
UNITE HERE Local 2 announced December 18 that the union has reached a tentative agreement with restaurant owners at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). UNITE HERE Local 2 represents nearly 1,000 food service workers employed as cooks, cashiers, dishwashers, food servers and bartenders working at cafes, bars and restaurants at the airport.
The union had been negotiating with the SFO Airport Restaurant Employer Council, which represents the restaurant owners, for more than a year. Food service workers at SFO approved a strike and boycott authorization vote by over 98 percent November 20, and held a two-day strike December 11 and 12, shutting down restaurants throughout the airport.
Local 2 Food Service Director and negotiator Anand Singh said the new contract includes all the big issues the union demanded. “It includes strong job security protections and worker retention measures,” he said. Restaurant employees will be able to get a job in another restaurant or café at SFO in the event of restaurant closures or lease terminations.
The union had called for a contract that provides real wage increases to keep up with the increasing cost of living in the Bay Area, ensures that health care benefits will continue unchanged, and increases pension contributions so that workers can retire with dignity. Information from the airport showed SFO restaurants are extremely profitable; in September of this year, travelers spent over $17 million on food and beverages. In 2013, the restaurant employers had $200 million in revenues. The average pay for the restaurant workers is just $24,000 a year.
Local 2 members picketed at several locations outside Terminal 2 December 12. Carlos Pineda, who works for Urban Tortilla as line cook and has worked for other restaurants at SFO said, “We need a contract for health care and job security and better wages.” Alejandra Gomez, who has worked for Urban Tortilla for one year, said, “We want good health benefits but the restaurants are trying to cut back.”
Singh said the union achieved significant increases in the employers’ contributions to workers’ health and welfare, so that employees’ co-payments will not increase. Health care coverage will remain affordable for workers and their families each year of the agreement, which expires August 2019, he said. The agreement also provides for fair wage increases during each year of the contract and stronger union rights and leadership development training opportunities.
The UNITE HERE Local 2 members were joined on the picket line December 12 by members of Teamsters Local 856 and 986, Machinists Local 1781 and 1782, and SEIU – United Service Workers West, as well as representatives from the San Francisco and San Mateo Labor Councils.
Mike Lagomarsino of Teamsters Local 856 said he was picketing with the food service workers because, “It benefits all workers” when wages and working conditions are improved for any group of workers. “We are always ready to support Local 2 in whatever the struggle they have to advance workers’ rights and economic conditions,” he said.
“We work closely with Local 2 at the hotels in San Francisco and they have stood with us” during our labor disputes with management, Lagomarsino said. He said one reason the Teamsters have a good contract for SF hotels is because the hotel workers have set a good standard and supported other bargaining units. “We are always ready to stand with Local 2,” he said.
Anand Singh of Local 2 said, “The workers were all very pleased with the efforts and the solidarity of other union members who walked the picket lines. It was a real boost for the Local 2 members to see the other union members on the line.”
In a press release announcing the tentative agreement, Airport Director John L. Martin said, “I am very pleased that both parties have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract. I am proud of our outstanding restaurant owners and employees, who provide an excellent culinary experience for our passengers. This new contract will ensure the best pay and benefits for SFO food service employees.”
“We are happy to have reached this agreement with our employees,” said SFO Restaurants’ President Steve Sarver. “The nationally recognized food & beverage programs at SFO now have a long-term contract for our important asset: our employees.”
“We view this as an important step forward at SFO,” said Anand Singh. “This contract provides workplace standards that allow our members to continue delivering outstanding service to the customers of SFO.”
The SFO food service workers were set to vote on the tentative deal as Labor went to press December 22.
- Paul Burton