#UnitedDoesntCare about its workers or their rights.

May 22, 2018

United Airlines claims to be a big family but treats immigrant catering workers as their Cinderella

Despite ¾ of workers voting to unionize, United Airlines is accusing immigrant workers of being too uneducated to know that they signed on to start a union.

 

Summary

  • “We want to be treated equally” say United Airlines catering workers, which are mostly immigrant and people of color.
  • United has accused ¾ of workers who voted to unionize to be too uneducated to understand what they signed on for.
  • United has begun an aggressive worker intimidation and union misinformation campaign to prevent its last ununionized department from unionizing.
  • CEO told his catering workers “why would I pay you more than minimum wage for putting salad in a bowl?” – displaying his lack of value of hard work and human dignity
  • Workers often have to live up to 17 people per housing unit to afford rent in the Denver Metro area while the airline has refused to raise wages for years.


Maryann saw the U.S. as a bastion of freedom and economic opportunity, until she encountered economic marginalization at her workplace, forcing her into an economic situation where she has been barely able to stay afloat and has not been able to help her family back home. She came to the United States from the island of Chuuk in Micronesia, northeast of Papua New Guinea.
Expecting to be able to work hard to make a decent living, she says “it breaks [her] heart” to know she cannot help her family back home because she and her family have been subsisting paycheck to paycheck.

She was a teacher back at home, hoping she could help her family if she was able to emigrate to the U.S. She begun working for Chelsea Food Services, a subsidiary of United Airlines, which has about 2,700 workers. Maryanne says she and her fellow co-workers and future Union members work long hours under difficult conditions only to subsist, be treated as less-than, and have been refused raises for years, despite intense spiking of cost-of-living in the Denver metro area over the last 5 years.

95% of catering workers are people of color or immigrants, with a majority being Asian and Pacific Islander migrants from Micronesia and a large Vietnamese and Filipino population.


How did we get here?

Every single other department in United Airlines has a union representing those employees, but United Airlines has done anything in its power to prevent or delay its catering workers to unionize.

Worst part is the United has consistently failed to translate any safety or training documents to the catering worker’s native languages, but has gone out of their way to translate and post worker intimidation flyers trying to dissuade workers to unionize.

United’s conduct has been shady at best and dishonest at worst.

They have been protesting managers treating workers as if they are non-essential despite the importance of their positions in getting flights out on time, the fact that these a very physically demanding job with long hours and difficult conditions. This is all in the context of housing and food prices soaring in Denver in the last 5 years. That is not even taking into account how health care and dental coverage is unaffordable on their wages, which would absorb pretty much their whole paycheck.


Who are the catering workers?

Maryann represents slightly over 2,700 workers in Denver, Colorado, Newark, New Jersey, Cleveland Ohio, Honolulu, Hawaii and Houston, Texas. Denver’s caterers are the 3rd largest group with around 600 employees.

“We want to be treated equally,” Maryann says
United’s catering workers are the only department without a union to protect its workforce. They help coordinate a team that makes meals for first flight tickets and international flights, which cost 1000s of dollars, yet are perceived as not valuable part of company, which is due to the ethnic composition and immigration status of catering workers.
“We are not asking for the sky, asking to be treated fairly and the same way as every other department,” Marryann explains.

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