Phoenix Airport May Have Hungry Passengers During Busy Travel Week as Some Workers Strike

Foodservice workers at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport have gone on strike.

A union representing the workers began the strike on Monday, the Associated Press reported. The workers, who are registered under the Unite Here Local 11, are "demanding a new, comprehensive contract," according to a press release sent by the union. Their demands include "fair raises, affordable health insurance, a company-paid retirement contribution, protections for workers' tips, and strong contract language for equal opportunity and protection from discrimination."

Workers had reportedly been in negotiations for a better contract with their employer, HMSHost, since 2017. However, plans eventually fell through, resulting in workers an overwhelming vote to go on strike during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

According to local news station KTVK 3TV, the strike affects terminals three and four at the airport and could result in changes that will be felt potentially by hungry travelers. An airport representative told the station that they are working closely with concessionaires during the strike.

"HMSHost is one of several concessionaires in Sky Harbor's terminals. While HMSHost has communicated to the airport that they have a contingency plan in place, we will work closely with all of our concessionaires to provide the best possible service to travelers," the spokesperson said. "As always, our customer service staff will be in the terminals responding to questions and directing customers to available concessions."

HMSHost, the largest concessionaire at the Phoenix airport, released a statement condemning the strike. "Unite Here Local 11's decision to strike only serves to hurt the traveling public and the HMSHost associates who continue to work during this difficult time," officials representing the company said.

The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport strike is expected to conclude on November 29 according to KTVK 3TV, but it could be extended indefinitely.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Phoenix Sky Harbor
A union representing the food service workers began the strike on November 22, the Associated Press reported, during one of the busiest weeks of travel. Above, A traveler arrives at terminal 3 wearing a mask at Sky Harbor Airport on March 12, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

HMSHost served more than 45 million passengers annually before the coronavirus pandemic.

The strike won't affect flights but will affect hungry travelers because HMS operates more than two dozen restaurants and coffee shops. The company said in a statement it will offer pre-packaged food and scale down offerings for sit-down service during the strike.

HMSHost said it offered substantial wage increases and benefits that include paying 90 percent of employees' health care costs. The union represents less than half of the company's hourly employees, HMSHost said.

"This is part of the most generous compensation package ever for Sky Harbor associates," the company's statement said.

A one-day strike organized by UNITE HERE in September to protest understaffing at the airport's restaurants led to long customer lines at places like Starbucks.

The strike won't affect flights but will affect hungry travelers because HMS operates more than two dozen restaurants and coffee shops. The strike began November 22 and could end November 29. Above, a Southwest Airline plane is seen on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on September 19, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona. DANIEL SLIM/AFP/Getty Images