On the eve of the Super Bowl LIV in Miami, catering workers serving American Airlines have been on a fast at Miami International Airport to call for an end to poverty wages and unaffordable health care.
The “Fast for Our Families” began on Monday, January 27, and will end Saturday the 1st. The nine fasters from Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis.
Daniel Regassa is a catering driving working at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. He flew out to support the Miami workers because he believes that they deserve a “better, affordable health insurance and better wages.” As he interacts with those leaving the airport, he has noticed that many are offering their solidarity and have been signing UNITE HERE’s petition.
As a catering driver, he only makes $18.50 an hour but pays $216 a month for his health insurance. Regassa knows that American Airlines has been profitable and should be able to offer more to their lowest-paid workers.
Regassa’s participation reflects that this is “one big fight across the country.” A National Day of Action organized by UNITE HERE is scheduled for February 14th .
At a Monday press conference, the fasters were joined in solidarity by National Football Players Association President DeMaurice Smith, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monastine, and Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26).
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that all labor has dignity. Let’s remember, as hundreds of thousands of people descend onto Miami this week, that behind every Super Bowl party and celebration, there are men and women doing the work behind the scenes to be able to feed their families,” said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. “The NFLPA is proud to stand in solidarity with airline catering this week, and shame on American Airlines for not taking action to make sure they are provided a living wage.”
“We welcome all who are flying into Miami for the Super Bowl, but we want them to see our side of Miami too. We’re fasting for our families because our kids need to be fed, because we need to be able to take them to the doctor,” said Sonia Toledo, who has worked for LSG Sky Chefs at MIA for nearly thirty years. “Through this fast, we hope to expose and to urge American Airlines to end poverty in the airline industry.”
In a press statement the union stated:
Though American Airlines, which has named MIA as one of its most important U.S. hubs, has earned $1.9 billion in profits in 2018, over 70% of airline catering employees at LSG Sky Chefs who service American at MIA earn below the living wage set for other airport employees.
According to the union, only 19% of airline catering workers serving American Airlines at MIA had company healthcare in 2018, and only 4% covered any dependents. A 2019 survey of 128 out of 840 employees in Miami found that 48% depend on government-funded healthcare programs for themselves or their children. Thirty-five percent (35%) reported that they are uninsured entirely.
The fasters will hold daily actions at the airport and other Super Bowl events to spread their message as widely as possible.
“When all eyes are on Miami for Super Bowl LIV, we want to show the world what is beyond the glitz and glamour and address the poverty and inadequate health care system that airline catering workers face every day,” said UNITE HERE Local 355 President Rose Denis, who is among the fasters. “I am fasting because as an immigrant from Haiti, I understand that people who come here with the dignity and desire to work deserve to make enough to put food on the table and see a doctor when they need.”
In the past catering workers serving American Airlines led a civil disobedience protest at MIA the week of Thanksgiving.