Philadelphia Airport workers stand up for rights in OTG contract dispute

In a resounding show of solidarity, Philadelphia Airport food service workers employed by Independence Prime and Local Tavern, both owned by OTG, voted overwhelmingly, 95%, to authorize the strike. This vote marks an important milestone in their push for improved health benefits, fair wages and better working conditions.

The situation has reached a critical point as workers face an ongoing struggle to secure the rights they were promised.

OTG, the largest food service employer at Philadelphia International Airport, employs a diverse workforce across three terminals, including significant proportions of Black, brown, immigrant and female workers Philadelphia Tribune.

After four years of negotiations, an agreement was reached on June 15, 2022. That contract, praised for its provisions including free health care, significant wage increases, back pay, additional paid vacation and holiday pay, received unanimous approval from OTG workers in a year’s subsequent ratification vote, investigators said reported.

More than a year later, OTG’s agreed contract is still not signed. The company’s failure to meet its obligations has left workers struggling with withheld back pay, denied access to promised health care and unpaid raises for 2023. Failure to respect agreed terms has left employees frustrated and feeling undervalued.

The fight for free health care began in 2019 when airport officials took drastic measures, including fatalities and civil disobedience, to draw attention to their plight. Now, employees at Independence Prime and Local Tavern remain committed to the cause and are determined to ensure the health care they and their families deserve, according to the Inquirer said.

Michael Lagansky, a waiter at the Local Tavern in Terminal F, emphasizes the broader implications of their fight. “We don’t just advocate for ourselves, we advocate for everyone at PHL. Most employees at our airport do not receive company health care because they cannot afford it. We’re changing that,” he said.

Despite the strong stance of workers and the legal support of Philly Local 274, which represents 4,000 private sector hotel and food service workers in the region, OTG maintains its stance of noncompliance. The company’s claim that no agreement has been reached contradicts the evidence and leaves workers’ demands unmet.

The introduction of binding arbitration agreements in employment contracts has made the situation even more complex. This controversial clause not only limits workers’ rights to redress but also undermines their collective bargaining power. The arbitration agreements have further strained already tense negotiations between Unite Here Local 274 and OTG.

The resounding vote to authorize the strike reflects the unwavering determination of Philadelphia Airport workers to secure their rightful benefits and fair treatment. OTG’s failure to fulfill its obligations is a stark reminder of the challenges workers face in enforcing their rights. As negotiations continue, workers and their union remain steadfast and unshakable in their belief that justice and fair treatment must prevail. The outcome of this fight will not only impact the workers directly involved, but will also set a precedent for the broader labor landscape in Philadelphia and beyond.

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