PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Dozens of employees of HMSHost at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport walked off the job Wednesday morning for a one-day strike to protest what they call "unbearable" understaffing. Workers with signs were marching outside Terminal 4 at 4 a.m. and expected to be out there all day.
According to the workers, air travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels, but staffing at the airport's restaurants is not. A news release cited an almost 21% reduction in the number of baristas at the airport's four Starbucks locations. "Baristas were the first to come forward about the impact understaffing has had on their working environment: a rushed pace of work, long lines of often irate customers, and an inability on occasion to take restroom breaks," Unite Here Local 11 said in a news release. Unite Here Local 11 is a labor union representing more than 32,000 hospitality workers in Arizona and Southern California.
"We're tired of doing the job of two or three people and not getting recognized and not getting any backup from our managers and from the company," barista Victoria Stahl told Arizona's Family Wednesday morning. The striking workers are appealing to HMSHost, which operates concessions at more than 120 airports worldwide, to deal with the issue.
Unite Here Local 11 says the City of Phoenix has granted HMSHost rent relief totaling more than $4.7 million between April 2020 and April 2021.
"As travel has rebounded and sales levels approached their pre-pandemic levels, HMS Host employees have advocated Phoenix City Council and its Aviation Commission to only grant further relief to the concessionaire on the condition that there is a plan that ensures workers (sic) needs are met," Unite Here Local 11 says.
Arizona's Family has reached out to Sky Harbor International Airport and learned that the aviation director asked the City Council to a motion from today's meeting to accept nearly $20 million in federal recovery funding earmarked explicitly for airport concessions.
In a statement, HMSHost said that they are undergoing similar staffing issues as others in the foodservice and retail industries. They sent a statement to Arizona's Family:
HMSHost is dealing with the same severe staffing crisis as are other employers throughout the U.S. As we build back, we are committed to investing in our people and are prioritizing hiring and staffing stores while maintaining physical distancing in adherence to Covid 19 guidelines. We are proud to have opened almost all of our restaurants and returned many of our valued associates to work with competitive wages and appreciation and retention bonuses. Opportunities remain available to our furloughed associates who declined offers to return to work. HMSHost is committed to taking care of its associates and travelers while overcoming this national staffing crisis. We will not be distracted from our goal of recruiting, hiring, and operating stores that deliver the best experience possible during a very difficult time in the travel industry. We have partnered with multiple organizations to recruit locally, and we have sponsored and participated in numerous job fairs. We are actively recruiting for 200 positions, we encourage people to apply here https://careers.hmshost.com/jobs/search/where/PHX.