While the airline industry enjoys unprecedented in profits—a record $35 Billion in 2016—workers who deliver the food and drink consumed by airline passengers say they’re working in unsafe heat conditions. A study conducted by UNITE HERE of 386 drivers and drivers’ helpers for airline subcontractor LSG Sky Chefs uncovered several serious issues, including:
- Unsafe heat indices inside truck cabins—at times exceeding 125ºF;
- Multiple instances of heat-related symptoms while on the job, including dizziness, weakness, dehydration and passing out behind the wheel;
- Nearly half of surveyed workers reported that their understanding of company policy is that they are not allowed to carry drinking water—and said that they felt insufficiently prepared by the company’s heat training to respond in the event of an emergency.
“We’re not asking for CD players in the trucks. This is about our health,” said Bobby Kirkpatrick, a driver at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, “We’re constantly on the move or lifting heavy objects, and most of our job is done outside. When I’m sitting inside my truck waiting to service a plane, or driving from place to place, the heat can be unbearable. It’s inhumane to me that they won’t afford us the dignity of air conditioning.”
Despite recommendations by the Center for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to “ensure that new trucks have air conditioning and repair systems in existing vehicles,” the workers’ employer, LSG Sky Chefs, has refused to equip all trucks in its catering fleet with air conditioning units, citing cost.
Drivers are calling on Sky Chefs to take immediate action by ensuring that all trucks have functioning air conditioning units, and also call on the company’s largest clients—American, Delta and United Airlines—to require that all trucks servicing their planes have functioning air conditioning.
Earlier this summer, planes were grounded here in Phoenix because it was too hot, but we were still out there working,“Earlier this summer, planes were grounded here in Phoenix because it was too hot, but we were still out there working,” said Jose Torres, a driver at Phoenix International Airport, “The conditions in our trucks are a tragedy waiting to happen. It’s incredible to me that I work in the desert, for a company that services a billion-dollar industry, but I can’t have a working air conditioner in my truck.”