Talia Soglin

Two New Haven alders were among 53 arrested at an airline catering workers’ protest at John F. Kennedy International Airport last week.

The protestors, who numbered 500, staged a “die-in” at the American Airlines terminal to demand increased airline catering workers’ wages to cover medical care and lift families out of poverty. The group featured prominent New Yorkers such as Mayor Bill de Blasio, members of the city council and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Among the protestors were Ward 3’s Ron Hurt and Ward 9’s Charles Decker GRD ’19 — both of whom were issued summons for disorderly conduct — along with Ward 25’s Adam Marchand, who was not arrested.

“Airline caterers were fighting for health benefits, health care and better wages — some of them have been working for years,” Hurt told the New Haven Register last week. “One was working for the company [for] 30 years and making $15 an hour. So we stood ground.”

Hurt acknowledged that caterers are contractors rather than airline employees. Still, he said that American Airlines “should have some sort of say” in ensuring the proper treatment of these workers — many of whom, he said, are immigrants and black and brown individuals.

Decker did not respond to the News’ request for comment. An ABC News report shows Decker getting arrested by Port Authority Police. In the video, Decker is clad — like Marchand — in a T-shirt promoting Unite Here, a labor union whose membership includes over 20,000 airline catering workers. Decker is a member of Local 33, the Yale graduate students’ union.

Marchand is the staff organizer and health care coordinator for Local 34, the Yale clerical and technical workers’ union. Marchand told the News on Monday that he went to New York to show solidarity with “workers who have really poor pay and really harsh working conditions.” Hurt is not a member of Unite Here but said that he similarly went to the protest to support living wages for airline catering workers.

De Blasio, who also marched alongside the catering workers, said that “the people who create the wealth should share in the wealth.”

In a statement, American Airlines representatives expressed their confidence that “with the ongoing assistance of federal mediators, the catering companies and Unite Here will negotiate new nationwide agreements that increase pay and benefits.” Still, they underscored that the company has no control over negotiations between catering companies — which include LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet — and employees.

According to CNBC, LSG Sky Chefs spokesman David Margulies said that negotiations began in May and have continued since then with the help of a federal mediator.

“While this is a short period of time to negotiate a complex labor agreement, we feel progress is being made with the help of the federal mediator,” Margulies said. “We remain committed to negotiating in good faith.”

Unite Here staged demonstrations at 17 airports across the country last Tuesday.

Mackenzie Hawkins | mackenzie.hawkins@yale.edu

Mackenzie is the editor in chief and president of the Managing Board of 2022. She previously covered City Hall for the News, including the 2019 mayoral race and New Haven's early pandemic response. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a junior in Trumbull College studying ethics, politics and economics.