Yesterday, HMS Host workers at Starbucks locations at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport escalated a campaign to address understaffing by contacting Starbucks Corporation. The workers complain that although air traffic has returned, the airport’s Starbucks locations have less than half of their pre-pandemic staff, and that improved wages and benefits are needed to recruit and retain staff.
The understaffing complaints come as air traffic and sales have returned from the pandemic downturn. Data from the City of Phoenix for April 2021 show nearly 1.6 million enplanements at Sky Harbor, a 1013.6% increase from April 2020. The April 2021 numbers show that the airport is at 79% of pre-pandemic enplanement levels when compared to April 2019. In April 2021, there were 3.2 million total enplanements and deplanements, approximately 79% of April 2019 levels. Exacerbating workers’ complaints, the City of Phoenix has granted HMS Host significant relief in the form of a rent waiver which UNITE HERE Local 11 says is worth $10.9 million, meaning that the company is neither paying full rent nor paying a full workforce, while travel is back in force.
Complaining that their jobs are “unsustainable” due to inadequate scheduling of both workers and trained managers, the workers allege in a letter to Starbucks Board of Directors that they “sometimes have a fraction of the number of workers we should to operate our sites.” They complain that their breaks sometimes have to wait while they get through long lines to serve Starbucks drinks to angry and unpleasant patrons, and that they sometimes work longer than they are initially scheduled to close down. The workers say that “[m]any of our coworkers–who apparently could not handle the stress or found better opportunities elsewhere–have quit in recent weeks.”
“I want to do my job well, but it’s really hard when we are so understaffed,” said Victoria Stahl, a barista in Terminal 4. “I have seen coworkers come and go because they get fed up. I hope the Starbucks corporation pushes HMS Host to staff up the way they should.”
HMS Host and Starbucks back in February touted their partnership in airports to “transform the traveler’s coffee shop experience.” The workers at Sky Harbor Airport have been in contract negotiations for over three years with HMS Host, demanding that it substantially increase all workers’ wages and provide access to affordable family health care. The City of Phoenix will next receive an update on HMS Host’s rent relief at a city council meeting this month.
UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona that work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers, and airports.
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