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Striking San Francisco airport workers to travelers: Bring your own food

Travelers flying through San Francisco International Airport may want to bring snacks. Roughly 1,000 workers at the airport’s restaurants, bars, coffee shops and lounges went on strike Monday to demand higher pay.

“Travelers should plan to bring their own food, as workers are on strike at virtually every food and beverage outlet within the airport,” Unite Here Local 2, a union that represents hospitality workers in the Bay Area, stated in a news release

Most of the cashiers, baristas, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders, servers and lounge attendants make $17.05 an hour and haven’t had a raise in three years, according to Unite Here. Negotiations for increased wages have been underway for nine months, according to the labor group. 

The minimum wage at San Francisco’s airport is $19.15 an hour, according to San Francisco’s Minimum Compensation Ordinance. The union and employers previously agreed to waive the minimum but jointly decided to revert to it in 2019 unless offered a higher rate, a Unite Here spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. 

“Employers are hiding behind the expired waiver and blatantly ignoring the clear contract provision requiring compliance with the [minimum compensation ordinance],” he said

Under the open-ended strike, the airport workers are bargaining with 30 different employers at 84 food and beverage outlets, all of which are represented by the SFO Airport Restaurant Employer Council. The group’s spokesperson and chief negotiator did not immediately return a request for comment. 

In 2020, the living wage in San Francisco County for a single adult without dependents was $30.81 an hour, according to a calculator devised by Amy Glasmeier, a professor of economic geography and regional planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

“I have to work two jobs to support my family and meet our needs, and it means I barely get to see my kids and grandkids,” Vivian Narvarte, who works at both Pie Five Pizza and Ladle & Leaf Restaurant at SFO, said in a statement issued by Unite Here.

“SFO’s food service workers are tired of working two or even three jobs just to survive,” stated Anand Singh, president of Unite Here’s local, which represents more than 15,000 workers at San Francisco’s airport, Oakland International Airport, hotels, restaurants, cafeterias and sports stadiums. 

San Francisco airport officials acknowledged the labor action was impacting service at restaurants and lounges. “Some food and beverage outlets are closed, while others remain open with limited hours and offerings,” SFO said Monday in an emailed statement. Newsstands at the airport remain open.

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