United Catering Workers in Six U.S. Cities Vote to Unionize

(Bloomberg) -- Catering employees at United Continental Holdings Inc. have voted to join the Unite Here union, marking the last group of front-line employees at the carrier to seek labor representation.

The vote was announced Tuesday by the National Mediation Board, with 72 percent of voters supporting the effort.

Overall, Chicago-based United has about 2,900 catering employees who work at kitchens in four United hubs—Denver, Houston, Newark, New Jersey and San Francisco—as well as in Cleveland and Honolulu. Almost 2,200 workers were eligible to participate and more than 1,700 voted, according to a union spokeswoman.

United acquired the work group in its merger with Continental Airlines; other U.S. carriers have outsourced their on-board catering functions to contractors such as Gate Gourmet International AG and LSG Sky Chefs. United also uses such companies for some of its catering needs. About 80 percent of United’s 88,000 employees are represented by a union.

United said it’s “committed to treating all of our employees with dignity and respect, and the outcome of this election does not change that.” The company added that it has “a strong track record” of working closely with unions.

During the organization drive, Unite Here and the airline both filed complaints with the National Mediation Board alleging improper actions by the other side. The board rejected both parties’ allegations.

Unite Here represents 300,000 U.S. and Canadian hospitality workers, including 18,000 airline catering workers at four companies, including United.

“My co-workers and I have fought so hard for this day because we know that we deserve to be equal with all the other United employees,” Lakisha McIntosh, who works in the Newark kitchen, said in a Unite Here news release.

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