The food, beverage and retail workers at Long Beach Airport are the latest to join other unionized groups rallying for better pay and working conditions this summer.
Dozens of workers and union representatives gathered late Friday afternoon outside the airport’s new baggage claim facility with signs, bullhorns and drums. There, they rallied against Paradies Lagardère, the company that operates the retail and restaurant spaces in the airport’s two concourses.
“There are certain things that we need as workers and that we need to survive as people that the company needs to provide,” said Sandra Rodriguez, who has been a retail worker at the airport for 10 years.
The workers are represented by Unite Here Local 11, which is the union behind the months-long string of strikes and demonstrations for hotel worker contracts. Similarly, hospitality workers at the airport also deserve better pay, according to Friday’s ralliers.
“We are the first line of defense when it comes to taking care of the customers,” said Rodriguez. “We are the ones that help them out. We are the ones that make the entire experience in Long Beach a pleasure.”
Paradies, an international company with over 100 stores across the U.S. as well as in Canada and Puerto Rico, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the rally or ongoing contract negotiations.
The airport workers’ old contract expired in spring 2022, Rodriguez said, adding that the workers cannot delay any longer. First and foremost, they are demanding higher pay, hoping to be able to live where they work.
“Most of us work multiple jobs to be able to live here,” said Nathan Hunter, who has been a cook in the north concourse for six months. Hunter said he also works at a burger joint in Los Alamitos and lives in Lakewood with two roommates, one of whom also works at the airport.
“A lot of [workers] have to commute from pretty far away,” Hunter said, noting one employee drives in from Oceanside. “It’s a big problem.”
The group also is looking for better health coverage, as some workers are “getting older,” Rodriguez, 44, said. “We obviously need something to keep our bodies going.”
The airport workers unionized around 2015, but until recently were severely unorganized, Hunter said.
The first picket held by the group was a couple of months ago and only about 15 people turned out, Hunter said. Friday afternoon, however, saw over three dozen people picketing.
The demonstration builds on a wave of union actions throughout Southern California, where hotels have seen sporadic strikes and picketing since early July when Unite Here Local 11 began publicly pressing for higher pay and better working conditions.
Some of the events have turned violent, including an Aug. 5 incident at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, which saw one worker get punched in the head.