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San Francisco airport food workers end three-day strike with tentative deal

A three-day walkout that shuttered most eateries at San Francisco International Airport is over, with a tentative contract reached giving raises and health care to about 1,000 workers.

The strike ended Wednesday at midnight after a tentative deal offering was reached, with workers back on the job as of Thursday, the union announced. Workers will vote Sunday on whether to approve the contract, which includes free family health care and "significant raises," Unite Here stated. 

The baristas, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders, servers and lounge attendants went on strike Monday to demand higher pay, with the union representing them advising travelers at the airport to bring their own provisions.

Most of the workers were making $17.05 an hour and hadn't had a raise in three years, with workers walking off their jobs after nine months of negotiations, according to Unite Here. 

The minimum wage at San Francisco's airport is $19.15 an hour, according to San Francisco's Minimum Compensation Ordinance. The union and employers previously agreed to waive the minimum but jointly decided to revert to it in 2019 unless offered a higher rate, a Unite Here spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. 

"Employers are hiding behind the expired waiver and blatantly ignoring the clear contract provision requiring compliance with the [minimum compensation ordinance]," he said.

The airport workers' union bargained with 30 different employers at 84 food and beverage outlets, all of which were represented by the SFO Airport Restaurant Employer Council. The group's spokesperson and chief negotiator did not return a request for comment. 

In 2020, the living wage in San Francisco County for a single adult without dependents was $30.81 an hour, according to a calculator devised by Amy Glasmeier, a professor of economic geography and regional planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

"This strike was so worth it to give my family a better life," Blanca Gay, a snack bar attendant at SFO for 30 years and member of the UNITE HERE Local 2 bargaining committee, said in a statement issued by Unite Here. "My son is in college, but he had to switch from full-time to part-time just so he could work. With the raises we won, I can help my son go back to school full-time. All the hard work and sacrifice of the strike has paid off for my family."

"This victory shows the world that fast-food jobs can in fact be good, family-sustaining jobs, and it's all because workers had the courage to strike," stated Anand Singh, president of Unite Here's local, which represents more than 15,000 workers at San Francisco's airport, Oakland International Airport, hotels, restaurants, cafeterias and sports stadiums. 

San Francisco airport officials acknowledged the labor action impacted service at restaurants and lounges. "Some food and beverage outlets are closed, while others remain open with limited hours and offerings," SFO said Monday in an emailed statement

The airport on Thursday also welcomed the tentative pact, while cautioning on its site that "hours and food offerings may still be limited today as workers and deliveries return to normal schedules."

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