Restaurant workers on strike at airport amid mass flight cancellations due to storm

Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner File Photo
Many restaurant workers went on strike at SFO on Thursday morning amid cancellations and delays due to the rain storm that hit The City.
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A two-day strike by nearly 1,000 restaurant workers at San Francisco International Airport began early this morning, closing the vast majority of the airport's restaurants amid a storm that has caused more than 230 flight cancellations at the airport today.

At 2 a.m. this morning, SFO restaurant workers with the hotel and restaurant union Unite Here Local 2 walked off the job to strike for a contract that provides health care protection and job security, according to the union's community coordinator Laurel Fish.

Fish said the airport restaurant workers have been without a contract for about 16 months and are picketing today against management's proposal to freeze contributions to worker's health care funds at the current level for the next five years.

Fish said the average restaurant worker makes about $24,000 a year and cannot afford to pay about $4,000 in health care costs out of pocket.

She said the airport restaurants grossed nearly $200 million last year, with sales up 34 percent over the last three years.

“They can afford to do better for workers,” Fish said.

Fish said 23 companies with a total of 55 locations at the airport are negotiating the contracts together and that workers at those 55 locations are on strike, resulting in 80 percent of the airport's cafes, bars and restaurants to be closed.

Establishments impacted or closed by the strike include the San Francisco Soup Company, Boudin Bakery, Peet's Coffee and Tea, Subway and Firewood Café.

Jesse Johnson, a bartender at the airport's Buena Vista Café for 34 years, is among those workers who have walked off the job to strike. In a statement released today, Johnson said that it has been difficult for him to make ends meet while working at the airport and living in the Bay Area.

“The restaurants at SFO bank huge money from airline passengers. We're out here fighting for our families,” Johnson said.

The union issued a travel advisory, urging anyone flying from SFO during the coming days to bring food with them to the airport until the strike ends at 2 a.m. Saturday, according to Fish.

Airport duty manager Bob Rotiski said at about 11:30 a.m. that 236 flights have been canceled today and that 112 of the cancellations are departures and 124 are arrivals.

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