Mercury News reports:

 Less than half of the workers preparing meals served aboard three airlines flying out of San Francisco International Airport can afford the health care plans offered by their employers, union officials said Saturday.

“I prepare food and beverage for some of the world’s biggest airlines, but I have to go to a free clinic because my company insurance is so expensive that I can’t afford it,” Roberto Alvarez, who loads airline carts full of food and beverages at one of the two San Francisco International Airport kitchens that held strike votes this week, said in a news release.

Unite Here Local 2, the hotel and restaurant workers’ union of San Francisco and San Mateo counties, announced Saturday that about 1,500 workers — or 99.8 percent of the union’s members — voted this week to authorize a strike when released by the National Mediation Board.

The employees work for LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet — subcontractors providing meals for United, Delta and American Airlines flights departing from SFO.

The vote by SFO employees was part of a national contract negotiation by thousands of airline catering workers across the country. Employees in 21 cities are taking part in a strike vote that will culminate on Friday, according to union representatives.

The decision to authorize a strike was made as a result of a growing crisis around airline catering workers’ health care and wages. Many of the union members live in poverty and cannot afford health care, according to union representatives.

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