Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is expected to join airport workers in a minimum wage protest slated for next week at Reagan National Airport, according to a report from the HuffPost.
A variety of catering workers, who primarily meal prep for in-flight services, will participate in a protest organized by the labor union Unite Here on Tuesday. Warren is expected to join the workers “as they petition the federal government for permission to go on strike,” the HuffPost reports.
The labor union has held a series of strikes across the country, with workers demanding a minimum wage increase.
“I think the Democratic Party had sort of forgotten who brought them to the dance lots of times,” Unite Here President D. Taylor explained. “I think the Democrats have finally started to understand that you [can’t] be a party of workers without the labor movement.”
The HuffPost reports:
Taylor said that even though the workers are directly employed by catering companies, their wages are determined in large part by the major airlines that hold the contracts. He said if the union can’t raise standards at both LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, airlines would just shift to whichever one is cheaper.
“We have to do this across the board,” Taylor said. “This is an industry that caters to airlines like American and Delta, which are making billions of dollars. There is such a disparity and our folks literally live in poverty.”
However, LSG Sky Chefs does not see a viable negotiation coming through just yet, noting that the union’s demands are unsustainable.
“The stumbling block to success is the union’s demands for added wages and benefits that more than double our total cost of labor,” an LSG Sky Chefs spokesperson said.
As the outlet notes, it is more difficult for airline employees to go on strike, given the nature of the travel sector.
Indeed, workers employed in the airline industry can’t go on strike as easily as other workers in the private sector. Their disputes are handled by the National Mediation Board, and any strike requires a release from the agency due to the impact it could have on travel. The bar for striking is very high ― and likely even higher when the board is headed by Republicans as it is now.
The union plans to file a petition for such a release on Tuesday. A Unite Here spokeswoman said it had secured a permit to hold a protest of up to 400 people inside Reagan National Airport the same day.
Warren is not the first Democrat candidate to stand with workers to raise the wage. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been a huge proponent but has been facing controversy himself, with staffers complaining about his “poverty wages.”