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Phoenix Sky Harbor restaurant workers strike as Thanksgiving rush begins

(The Center Square) – Travelers looking to fly out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for the Thanksgiving holiday might want to pack a lunch.

Concessions workers serving several restaurants and cafes at the state’s largest airport walked off the job Monday morning in what is being called an “indefinite strike.” The walkout comes as travelers ramp up to what's commonly the busiest travel weekend of the year.

HMSHost servers, bartenders, baristas, dishwashers and cooks that are members of UNITE HERE Local 11 have been in negotiations with the international concessions service over higher wages and better benefits.

HMSHost is one of the two organizations that staffs and operates restaurants at Sky Harbor.

“Workers are demanding a new, comprehensive contract with fair raises, affordable health insurance, a company-paid retirement contribution, protections for workers’ tips, and strong contract language for equal opportunity and protection from discrimination,” the union said in a statement. “Workers with UNITE HERE Local 11 have been in negotiations with HMS Host since 2017. Workers are prepared to strike indefinitely until HMS Host agrees to settle a contract that meets their demands.”

The union represents 32,000 hospitality workers in southern California and Arizona.

While the strike represents a significant portion of the staff, a representative with the city of Phoenix-managed airport stressed travelers still will have options available once they’re past the security lines.

“Today's activities are affecting less than 10% of the restaurants that would normally be open today,” said Heather Shelbrack, public information manager with Sky Harbor. “Nearly 50 restaurants are open today airport wide.”

Shelbrack said some restaurants have yet to reopen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Two Starbucks locations that have been open recently are closed today, in addition to Zinburger in Terminal 4,” she said.

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