Strike could close SFO restaurants

Passengers at San Francisco International Airport, who spend $7.93 on average at concessions each time they use the airport, may be without food, drink and other shops for two days during the busiest travel season of the year.

The local chapter of the UNITE HERE union, which represents cooks, bartenders, waitresses and other airport concessions employees, authorized a two-day strike Thursday. If the strike were to happen, the airport’s concessions would probably have to shut down, union President Mike Casey said.

The union will return to the bargaining table with separate restaurant representatives on Wednesday and Thursday but Casey said it seems “very likely” the strike will take place. He also said it could happen during the holidays, SFO’s busiest time of the year.

The airport has no plans to deal with the strike as of yet because they have not received information from concessionaries on how they plan to operate if a strike takes place, spokesman Mike McCarron said. The airport is still holding out hope that the strike will be avoided, he said.

With 50 restaurants and $122.2 million worth of sales last year without including duty-free shops, passengers will likely have an especially difficult time filling their stomachs during flights if Casey’s prediction comes true.

“I used to just bring my own drink, but now I have to buy one” after passing security, SFO traveler Karen Clay said, referring to increased security that limits liquids that can be brought on board. “So what would we do [if the vendors strike]?”

Passengers such as Betsy Myers, who had just picked up a friend from the airport Monday, said she prefers to take discount airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest Airlines. Those airlines, which both fly out of SFO, do not offer full meals during flights.

During a meeting between disgruntled concession employees, airport officials and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Airport Director John Martin told workers in a brief statement that SFO is trying its best to avoid any work stoppage.

But Casey, who said the workers have been without a contract for a year, said that 97 percent of workers voted to authorize the strike.

During the meeting with Martin, which was hosted by San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, dozens of employees came forward to share stories about being underpaid and having to pay $75 per month for parking.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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