SFO airline catering workers considering strike over low wages

Hundreds of airline kitchen workers at San Francisco International Airport are discussing the possibility of a strike. Union officials with Unite Here Local 2 say they need higher wages and more affordable health insurance. 

“We don't need impossible dreams, just a reality,” said airline food preparer, Bayani Santiago. 

Overcome with emotion, Bayani Santiago shared his truth. He's struggling, financially.  He says he was injured on the job at LSG Sky Chefs where he prepares food for the airlines and now can't afford his $1,700 medical bill on top of his $200 a month health-insurance premium. 

“It’s hard to pay that kind of money because that's not the only bills we have,” said Santiago.  

The base salary for an airline food prep worker is about $37,000 a year.

Santiago and his son rent a room in a house to keep costs down so he can try and save for his two other children who live in the Phillipines.  

“So when I die I have a little money to give for kids,” said Santiago. 

Santiago and other SFO airline catering workers with the union are voting this week whether or not to strike, after months of negotiations with Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet.

American, United and Delta airlines are in contract with those companies to handle their in-flight food and beverage services.

"Airline catering workers are tired of watching United, Delta and American Airlines make huge profits while they struggle to pay for unaffordable healthcare with poverty wages. We're saying one job should be enough, and airline catering workers are ready to fight for it," Lorraine Powell, food service director at Unite Here Local 2 said in a statement.

The workers at SFO earn on average about $18 dollars an hour. Less than 50 percent of them have company health insurance.

We’re told workers pay about $200 a month for individual coverage and up to $800 a month for family coverage. Some workers say they can’t afford to cover their family and look to MediCal for health coverage. 

“We are prepared to fight to get a good contract,” said Powell. 

“We work hard all the people work hard,” said Santiago. 

Unite Here has airline workers in 20 other cities, including New York, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, and Seattle where we’re told they're also considering a strike. The workers say they cannot strike until mediation efforts are exhausted and the federal government releases them. We're told Oakland and San Jose Airports are not be involved in this dispute. 

We reached out to LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet for comment but have not heard back.