MSP catering workers protest on busy travel day

Airline catering workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 17, lead a protest at MSP Airport.

While Delta rakes in billions in profits, many workers who cater the airline’s flights out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport can’t afford health insurance.

Faisal Abdallah, who has worked nearly 11 years for Delta caterer LSG Sky Chefs, is among them.

“If I get sick, I take pills and go back to work,” the Fridley resident said during a union rally at MSP today. “I don’t have a choice. I can’t afford the insurance even though I work two other jobs. I don’t know know what I would do if I got seriously sick.”

MSP is one of 17 airports across the country where unionized catering workers, members of UNITE HERE, are leading demonstrations during Thanksgiving week, raising awareness of their ongoing campaign for fair contracts with two major employers in the industry, Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet.

UNITE HERE represents some 20,000 airline catering workers nationwide, including 488 members of Twin Cities-based Local 17. They are pushing for higher wages – nearly half of MSP catering workers earn less than $15 an hour, according to the union – and more affordable health care options.

And they want airlines like Delta to support their cause.

As they marched from the sidewalk across the street from Terminal 1 to a mezzanine overlooking MSP’s main ticketing area, about 200 workers and supporters directed many of their chants at Delta, calling the carrier “cheap and mean.”

Several travelers applauded the protest and joined in the chants.

“I serve Delta flights every day at work,” Abdallah said. “Delta makes billions in profit, but I have to work three jobs just to pay my bills. I often work over 80 hours per week at my jobs, and I barely get to sleep.”

The demonstration was the second at MSP Airport since Sky Chefs workers voted to authorize a strike in June. Among Local 17 members, 99.7% of Sky Chefs workers who participated in the vote supported a strike, according to the union.

The contract, covering roughly 11,000 workers, became amendable under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) in December 2018. Federally mediated talks have been ongoing for months, but a strike can’t take place unless the National Mediation Board, which administers the RLA, declares an impasse and releases the two sides from negotiations.

A nationwide strike could impact services on board American, Delta and United airlines.


  1. mark gruenberg says:

    Thanks. We included some of your story, with credit, in ours. Mark G



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