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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Meghan Cohorst, 239-503-1533, [email protected]

Airline leaders urged to earmark one nickel per ticket towards affordable health care, ensure compliance with county living wage law

MIAMI — Airline food workers rallied today near the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an industry organization representing nearly 85% of the world’s airlines. Workers say that their health care is too expensive, leaving many un-or underinsured, and that they earn wages that are less than the wage required by the Miami-Dade County living wage ordinance. For just a “nickel a ticket,” they say the airlines could help fix the problem.

In all major airports, airline catering workers clean dishes, prepare meals and transport the food and beverages consumed aboard thousands of flights daily. According to a 2014 analysis of nearly 15,000 contracted airline catering workers nationally, over 40 percent make less than $10.10 per hour — less than the $14.27 rate for employees without a qualifying health care plan as stipulated by the Miami-Dade County Living Wage Ordinance. All three catering companies at MIA — Gate Gourmet, Flying Food-Servair and LSG Sky Chefs — are out of compliance with the ordinance.

Low wages also mean that industry workers are both unable to afford the premiums of so-called “minimum value” health plans and ineligible to purchase more affordable options from health care exchanges. Over one-quarter of 406 workers surveyed by UNITE HERE in 2014 reported being uninsured. In some cases, they pay annual premiums for company offered health care of between $1,400 for individuals and $5,000 for families.

At the same time, the U.S. airline industry is booming, with some airlines reporting record profits. Yet major U.S. airlines like American, Delta and United continue to squeeze the food workers in their supply chain. According to a 2014 article from the Los Angeles Times, airlines spent more than a dollar less on food per passenger in 2013 than they did in 2001.

“We see the airlines’ influence everywhere in our kitchens — from the food we prepare to the dishes it is served on,” said Cruz Peña, who has worked 25 years at LSG Sky Chefs, “Just as the airlines can decide what food is served to passengers, the airlines can also play a role in ensuring that our companies — the companies they contract to provide food to their planes — pay us a living wage, and provide affordable insurance. It’s the right thing to do.”

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UNITE HERE is a union with over 270,000 members in the U.S. and Canada, including 33,000 airline catering and concessions workers. It represents nearly 12,000 airline catering workers, employees of Gate Gourmet, Flying Food Group and LSG Sky Chefs.