Texas Airport Workers Demand Reinstatement of Fired Union Members

Members of UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers union, protested at the Austin, Texas, Department of Health April 12 in a campaign to reinstate four of their leaders fired by a food concessions company at the Austin airport.

Earlier, on March 25, a delegation of 30 workers organized by their rank-and-file contract committee had presented a petition to managers demanding a stop to unilateral work rule changes. In response, a manager asked airport police to arrest the whole delegation.

The concessions company, Delaware North, is in rocky national and local negotiations with the union.

Several days later, four workers were served with termination notices for "insubordination" and "engaging in a protest"—although the National Labor Relations Act protects "concerted activity" by workers acting for their collective betterment.

"All of us who were fired have been here longer than the managers," said bartender Mike Minnick. "We are angry and frustrated and call on the company to do the right thing."

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The union is also concerned about the cleanliness of the food outlets. Workers report seeing rodents and insects in the company's kitchens.

The company blacks out 70 days a year when workers aren't allowed to call in sick without a doctor's note. As a result workers are often forced to work sick.

Please support these workers by calling Jim Smith, the airport's executive director, at 512-530-2242 and demanding that the fired workers be returned to work—and that the company stop making them work while sick. Just a few calls could make a big difference.

The new campaign comes on the heels of a UNITE HERE victory at the Grand Hyatt hotel in nearby San Antonio. Gabriel Morales, a leader of the union organizing committee there, was fired but has just been reinstated with $5,385 in back wages.

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #374, May 2010. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.