Airline food worker says protesters tired of 'low-poverty wages'

A union worker at one of the world's largest airline caterers said Wednesday that the fight for higher wages and more affordable health care is far from over.

“While we’re still living in low-poverty wages, American Airlines is making billion dollars in profits from off of the work that we do,” Tenae Stover, who is an airline catering worker at LSG Sky Chefs, told Hill.TV.

The workers are demanding better working conditions and a base wage of at least $15 an hour. Stover said that so far, all LSG Sky Chefs has offered them is a 30-cent an hour raise.

The Dallas Morning News reported last week that more than 50 demonstrators were arrested outside of American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, a month after airport food workers held a protest at Reagan National Airport that was attended by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates like Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll Warren avoids attacks while building momentum Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll The polls are asking the wrong question Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (I-Vt.).

Stover said she took part in both protests and was among those arrested outside American Airlines' corporate headquarters. LSG Sky Chefs provides catering services to almost all major airlines, she said, adding that American Airlines was targeted because it's the company's main carrier.

LSG Sky Chefs issued a statement in response to Stover's remarks, saying negotiators have been working since May to come to an agreement and offered improvements in wages.

"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," a spokesperson said. "We remain committed to negotiating in good faith, and we hope that union members will act lawfully as they exercise their right to demonstrate or protest."

American Airlines spokesperson Joshua Freed said in a statement that the company remains confident that LSG Sky Chef and Unite Here will be able to reach an agreement, emphasizing that it is not part of ongoing negotiations. 

"We understand that a new contract will, ultimately, increase the costs to LSG Sky Chef’s customers, including American," Freed said. "While we are not part of the ongoing negotiations, we urge both LSG Sky Chefs and Unite Here to bargain in good faith and get a deal done."

Stover’s comments to Hill.TV come as thousands of airline catering workers across the country rally to step up pressure on airlines to improve wages and benefits.

“They’re in the fight for the long-haul but they’re definitely upset about the fact that we have to go through all of this for American Airlines and Sky Chefs to hear us out and they’re still refusing to respond to us," she said, referring to fellow Unite Here Local 23 members.

Airline catering workers are trying to pursue a strike.

In early June, airline catering employees at Reagan National Airport overwhelming voted in favor of the strike, and workers at dozens of other airports across the country soon followed.

However, there are still significant barriers before the strikes can officially begin. Stover said workers are still in the mediating process. But, regardless of the outcome, Stover made it clear that she will continue to fight and not stop until their demands are met.

“We really want to let it be known to American Airlines and people all over that one job should be enough,” said Stover, who said she was evicted last year for not being able to make rent.

She said she currently makes a little more than $12 an hour, but said that is not enough to make ends meet due to the high cost of living. 

—Tess Bonn

Story updated at 3:54 p.m.