San Francisco's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a new ordinance requiring many employers with workers at SFO — including catering workers, cabin cleaners, and baggage handlers — to pay for healthcare family plans for those workers.
After initially approving the ordinance last week, the Board took its "second reading" vote Tuesday and unanimously voted in favor of it once more. The new law came about after SFO has seen 156 COVID-19 cases among airport workers — and recognizing that some workers who are most at risk, like airplane cabin cleaners, are not always adequately insured.
"For far too many airport workers — the majority of whom are low wage, and many of whom live below the Bay Area poverty line — sky-rocketing co-pays and deductibles and expensive family plans mean workers and their families regularly forego medical visits because they can’t afford to take on thousands of dollars in debt," said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who co-sponsored the ordinance, in a statement. "This health care crisis not only threatens the safety of SFO, but also threatens to further widen the gap between the richest and the poorest in our economy. The Healthy Airport Ordinance will help end this race to the bottom for frontline airport workers."
As the Examiner reports, the ordinance comes after years of organizing by airport workers for both higher wages and expanded healthcare coverage — something that catering companies and airlines have suggested they can't afford.
Last November, SF Supervisors Matt Haney, Gordon Mar, and Ahsha Safai were among 50 people who were arrested at SFO during a protest staged by Unite Here Local 2, which represents catering workers at two companies, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet. That protest was aimed at getting higher wages and more healthcare benefits.
"Workers at SFO are mostly Black, Latino and API (Asian Pacific Islander) workers, and they have been already hard-hit by this pandemic," said Supervisor Matt Haney in a statement to the Examiner. "I am committed to supporting these workers, and every day that we fail to take action is another day that airport workers risk COVID-19 exposure without affordable health care for themselves and their families."
As the SF Business Times reports, airlines opposed the measure and suggested that it will result in higher ticket prices and likely layoffs of workers.
Photo: Duke Cullinan