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Phoenix Sky Harbor food service workers continuing strike during Thanksgiving travel week

The Phoenix airport's bartenders, baristas, dishwashers and cooks voted to strike over lack of pay, affordable healthcare and staffing.

PHOENIX — Foodservice workers at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport overwhelmingly voted in favor of authorizing a strike over the holiday travel season.

It began Monday, Nov 22. and is scheduled to continue through Nov. 29, according to HMS Host who was informed by the workers' labor union.

The strike was approved on Thursday with 97% of workers in favor. 

The workers, who are employed by HMS Host, aired their grievances over a lack of fair raises, affordable health insurance, company-paid retirement contribution and protections for workers' tips, the Unite Here Local 11 union said in a statement to 12 News.

The union alleged in a 13-page complaint that during 2019 Black workers were paid on average only 67% of the total earnings of white workers, and Latinx workers were paid on average 78% of the total earnings of white workers.

The strike is expected to impact arrivals and departures at the international airport in both Terminal 3 and 4.

Here's what the strike's first day looked like:

"At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, HMS Host laid off hundreds of workers at Sky Harbor Airport," the union said. "As COVID-19 rates spiked in Arizona in May 2020, Host notified its workers that their health insurance would be terminated."

RELATED: Strike dodged with deal between film and TV crews, studios

HMS Host responded with a statement that read in part:

"Unite Here Local 11’s decision to strike only serves to hurt the traveling public and the HMSHost associates who continue to work during this difficult time. We are doing whatever it takes to minimize any inconvenience over this busy holiday travel time."

The union's workers staff over two dozen restaurants and coffee shop outlets at the airport. HMS Host is the single largest employer of these businesses at the Phoenix airport.

"We are offering substantial wage increases and enhanced benefits, including paying 90% of our associate’s health care costs, and contributing into a hospitality training fund to directly benefit our staff," an HMS Host spokesperson said. "This is part of the most generous compensation package ever for Sky Harbor associates."

The company said that union members comprise less than half of all HMSHost hourly employees. It also called the union's vote "unfortunate" and said it would inconvenience passengers during the busy holiday season.

RELATED: Fed up by pandemic, US food workers launch rare strikes

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