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.