Workers say Sky Chef is dragging its feet in contract talks


Workers who prepare, package and provide the in-flight food served by airlines like Delta, are mobilizing a public campaign to get their employer, LSG-Sky Chefs, to negotiate in earnest with their union, UNITE HERE. The two sides officially have been in talks since last October on a new master agreement covering the 6,600 members of UNITE HERE who work at Sky Chefs. But workers, about two dozen of whom rallied outside the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport on Aug. 19, say the company’s refusal to budge on economic issues has halted meaningful negotiations – and has poisoned workplace morale.

John Munsen, an equipment-sanitation coordinator with 23 years of experience working for Sky Chefs, said the two sides “are deadlocked on economics.”

“It took us roughly 10 months just to do the non-economic language, which, to us, it’s meaningless,” Munsen said. “Safety shoes are fine, but stuff like that doesn’t really affect our lives, our families. From this point on its all economics, and we’re at a standstill.”

Munsen, one of more than 400 Twin Cities-based Sky Chefs workers who are members of UNITE HERE Local 17, said workers stepped up to the plate when Sky Chefs appeared headed for bankruptcy four years ago, agreeing to wage and benefit cuts to help keep the company afloat.

Now that the company is profitable again, workers are looking to recover their standard of living. But Sky Chefs is looking for more concessions, offering workers a health care plan that would increase their out-of-pocket costs even further.

“We lost 5 percent of our wages,” Munsen said. “We gave back $60 million in wage concessions, health care benefits, holidays, right on down the line.

“We’re trying to recover that now. We want what we lost, and then we want to start with negotiations from that point on for the next three years. Sky Chefs is not willing to give back even 1 percent of what they took away in 2006. They’re unwilling to give up anything.”

That’s an insult to long-term workers like Munsen, as well as new workers like Jarso Wario, a Sky Chefs driver who joined the company just as the last round of concessions were being negotiated.

“People like John, they lost money in 2006, and the company never even showed any respect for that,” Wario said. “They cut health care, they cut wages, they cut vacation, holiday and sick pay. We’re all disappointed. We are still hoping and pushing forward to get to a better place.”

From now on, Local 17 organizer Lisa Cline said, that push for a new contract will include more actions designed to make the public aware of Sky Chefs’ treatment of its workers.

“We want it to be publically known that we are out here trying to create better wages and a better environment for our Sky Chefs workers,” Cline said.

“We deserve to get something,” Wario added. “That’s why we’re doing these rallies, to show them we support each other.”

Michael Moore edits The Union Advocate, the official publication of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation. Learn more at