50 arrested at SFO American Airlines terminal in airline catering workers’ Thanksgiving civil disobedience

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Contact: Ted Waechter / 919-636-1124 / [email protected]

Twitter: @UniteHereLocal2 / #1job


50 arrested at American Airlines SFO terminal in airline catering workers’ Thanksgiving civil disobedience

Sit-in followed protest by more than 350 workers and supporters, calling for American Airlines to address poverty wages and unaffordable health care as part of nationwide airport demonstrations in 17 cities


San Francisco, Calif. — Fifty airline catering workers and supporters – including Supervisors Matt Haney, Gordon Mar, and Ahsha Safaí – were arrested in a nonviolent sit-in inside the American Airlines terminal at SFO. The civil disobedience followed a protest by more than 350 workers on one of the busiest travel days in the U.S., the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Photos and video of the action are available here, courtesy of Unite Here Local 2.

“I took arrest today because even though I load drinks and snacks onto carts for American Airlines, my health care is so unaffordable that I’m afraid to go to the doctor,” said Malia Salt, an airline catering worker who serves American Airlines and was arrested in today’s civil disobedience. “All the bills have left me in thousands of dollars of medical debt, while American Airlines makes billions. It’s time for American Airlines to make my health care affordable.”

The demonstration was led by UNITE HERE Local 2 airline catering workers, who prepare food and beverages served on board American Airlines and other flights departing from SFO. Workers and supporters – including Supervisors Matt Haney, Gordon Mar, and Ahsha Safaí, Fred Ross Jr., and Marriott workers who went on strike last year – held a sit-in near the American Airlines check-in area while more than 350 – including cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, luggage handlers, and other airport service workers with Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) – protested in front of the terminal. They called on American to take urgent and necessary steps to ensure that workers who cater its flights can escape poverty and access affordable healthcare; the action was part of nation-wide protests by thousands of airline catering workers in 17 cities.

“We’re protesting on this busy travel day because we want American Airlines passengers to know that poverty wages and unaffordable health care are unacceptable,” said Anand Singh, President of Unite Here Local 2, who was also arrested in today’s civil disobedience. “One job should be enough for the workers who cater American Airlines flights, and we’re ready to do whatever it takes to make that happen.”

Though airline catering workers are essential to airline operations, less than 50 percent of workers at the SFO airline catering kitchens where workers have authorized a strike had company health insurance in 2018, and 10 percent had a child or other family member covered. Meanwhile, American reported a 2018 annual profit of $1.9 billion.

Today’s protests are the latest in a series of demonstrations at airports across the country calling attention to American Airlines. In addition to SFO, protests and/or acts of nonviolent civil disobedience took place in 17 cities, including major airports in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. This past summer UNITE HERE airline catering workers at SFO voted overwhelmingly to strike when released by the National Mediation Board. Federal mediation of contract negotiations continues.


UNITE HERE Local 2 is the hospitality workers’ union and represents 13,000 members working in the hotel, food service, and airport industries in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, including 2,100 airline catering workers at SFO. Learn more on Twitter @UniteHereLocal2 or at unitehere2.org.