Workers at the 15 Philadelphia International Airport restaurants operated by OTG have ratified a new contract. The deal comes after more than five years without a current contract, and following a prolonged dispute over whether the company and the workers’ union had already reached an agreement in 2022.
OTG restaurants employ more than 200 people at the airport, who are members of Unite Here Local 274. Their vote in support of the contract was unanimous, the union said.
The new contract includes benefits in line with Philadelphia Prevailing Wage Ordinance requirements, and it will provide free health care for employees starting on Jan. 1, the union said. It also includes wage increases and back pay, as well as increased holiday pay, vacation time and sick time.
“By working together, we’ve made historic progress toward a workplace that meets the needs of our diverse membership, many of which are of Black, Brown, immigrant, and women workers,” said Rosslyn Wuchinich, president of Local 274. “Securing quality free health care and robust holiday, vacation and sick time, along with raises and retroactive pay, brings these members a level of security and stability that every person deserves.”
The union said it expects the new OTG contract to set a standard for other employers whose workers are members of Local 274.
“Our OTG crew members are essential to us, so we consider this latest development to be a win both for them and our entire organization,” Rick Blatstein, founder and CEO of OTG, said in a statement Monday. “Under this agreement, all PHL crew members will be receiving higher wages, with the majority also eligible to receive free health insurance.”
‘Years of waiting’
OTG’s nonmanagement workers unionized in 2014. They got their first contract in 2015, and it expired in 2018. The union and company have been negotiating on and off since then.
The latest escalation was in October, when about 80 members who work at Independence Prime in Terminal B and Local Tavern in Terminal F voted to authorize a strike if the union’s negotiating committee called for it.
“After years of waiting, the joy I’m feeling is indescribable,” said Musa Jabateh, who works full-time at Independence Prime in Terminal B. “Knowing that I’ll have access to free health care means more than words can capture — it’s a real improvement that will bring peace of mind and a better quality of life for me and my coworkers.”
That benefit seemed like it was in reach over a year ago, OTG workers have said.
According to Unite Here, workers and OTG reached an agreement on contract terms in mid-June 2022, then voted to accept those terms a week later. Wuchinich has said that she has emails from OTG leaders acknowledging the agreed-upon terms and that workers voted to ratify it.
Union members then waited months to see the changes go into effect. In December, OTG told union representatives that there had been no agreement.
Since then, OTG has maintained that there was no agreement in 2022. A spokesperson said in October that the union was spreading “false information.”