PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) – Ahead of what is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, workers who run the concession stands went on strike Monday. HMS Host employees took to the picket line at 5 a.m. Monday. The strike means major changes at the airport and could impact travelers arriving and departing from terminals three and four. "We did eat in advance just in case," said Renee Warner, who's traveling to Salt Lake City.

Workers with HMSHost, the contractor who runs a majority of the concessions at the airport, are demanding a new contract with the company. The union voted last week to authorize a strike. On Sunday, a spokesperson for HMSHost said the company has been informed by leaders at UNITE HERE Local 11, the union who represents the workers that they will be on strike through the Thanksgiving holiday until Nov. 29.

“I haven’t seen any sort of pay raise in over five years at this point. We haven’t had a contract in seven years. I want to see something in writing," said Vivien Eubanks, who's been an HMSHost employee for more than 9 years.

"HMSHost is one of several concessionaires in Sky Harbor’s terminals. While HMS Host 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," a Sky Harbor spokesperson told Arizona's Family Monday morning. "As always, our customer service staff will be in the terminals responding to questions and directing customers to available concessions."

Just two months ago, workers conducted a one-day strike focused on what they called an understaffing crisis. UNITE HERE Local 11 previously said they had been working with the City of Phoenix, which owns the spaces used by HMSHost, to solve the staffing problem.

HMSHost officials released a statement regarding the strike saying:

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. We are doing whatever it takes to minimize any inconvenience over this busy holiday travel time and have supplemented services with managers, temporary employees, and associates from other HMSHost locations, as well as increased our offerings of fresh, pre-packaged food items and self-pay stations. HMSHost has proposed best-in-class benefits and wage increases with enduring changes. We remain committed to shaping our industry and the communities we serve through diversity, outreach, and advocacy.

HMSHost says they have a contingency plan in place to operate concessions at Sky Harbor Airport that will minimize any inconvenience during this holiday travel time. Managers, temporary employees, and associates from other HMSHost locations will be staffing locations in the airport during the pending strike.

Sky Harbor concession workers voting on strike ahead of Thanksgiving

"Since 2017 we haven’t gotten a raise at all," Lucia Salina, a cook at Sky Harbor, said. Salinas said her and her co-workers are asking for better pay and affordable health insurance. "We are struggling right now," Salinas said.

Shayna Iglesias with HMS Host, the employer of the largest group of Sky Harbor workers said the company is offering a 12% wage increase and increased benefits, including covering 90% of a worker's health care costs as well as an appreciation bonus of up to $800 per employee. "There is potential to disrupt services to travelers," Iglesias said.

Salinas said it's not enough. "We are working so hard during the pandemic and I just feel like this company is not respecting us," Salinas said.

Iglesias said HMS Host is now having to bring in employees from other parts of the country. Managers and supervisors will also now be working those positions left open during the strike, and sit-down restaurants will have a limited menu. "We have put in more self-pay stations and additional prepackaged fresh food," Iglesias said.

"It’s going to impact a lot of people," traveler Mary Allums said.

Starbucks in terminal 3 and 4 will be closed Monday and Zinburger may close as well. "I would always say strikes are a last resort," traveler Bob Vaughn said.

"This Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to strike but it’s inconvenient for people who don’t have anything to do with it," Allums said.

Ahead of what is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, workers who run the concession stands went on strike Monday.

Salinas said she understands this strike may worry travelers. But she said it's important to fight for what she believes in. "I’m just so sorry about the travelers because it’s not their fault we are going through this but hopefully they understand we are suffering with this company," Salinas said.

A spokesperson with Sky Harbor said they are aware of the strike. "HMSHost is one of several concessionaires in Sky Harbor’s terminals. While HMS Host 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. As always, our customer service staff will be in the terminals responding to questions and directing customers to available concessions."

Victoria Smith says she doesn't think the strike will bring a resolution from HMSHost within the next week. “They’re still not respecting us. They’re working us harder, even more," she said.

Union officials dispute HMSHost's timeline, saying in a statement "Workers are prepared to strike indefinitely until HMS Host agrees to settle a contract that meets their demands." 


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