City council approves ATL airport concessions worker retention measure


The Atlanta City Council approved a measure to require new airport concessionaires to retain workers of previous firms.

Labor union UNITE HERE has pushed for worker retention ordinances in other cities, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration worked with the union on the ordinance the city council approved Monday.

The ordinance establishes an airport service contractor worker retention program. It requires companies that win new concessions contracts at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport retain workers of a former employer for a 90-day trial period, with certain limitations.

Without such an ordinance, whenever contracts are awarded to new companies to revamp restaurants or shops at the airport, “we face the chance of losing our jobs,” said Robert Davis, a server at the Cafe Intermezzo at Hartsfield-Jackson and a UNITE HERE member.

The workers must pass background checks and drug and alcohol testing, and the new measure does not apply to managers or executives. If the new concessionaire needs fewer employees, it would retain employees based on seniority.

“The idea here is we want to lessen the chaos that arises when there is a significant transition of concessions vendors at the airport,” said Melissa Mullinax, senior advisor to Reed. Of 6,000 concessions workers at the world’s busiest airport, about 1,400 are represented by the UNITE HERE union, she said.

The worker retention language is already written into recent solicitations for new concessionaires to operate airport shops at Hartsfield-Jackson.

“When new vendors are selected there’s no reason that the workers who have passed all the security tests, who have expertise and strong customer service skills, should lose their jobs during that transition period,” Mullinax said.

The airport concessions office would enforce the new measure, she said.

Changeovers in concessionaires would come after the award of contracts for airport shops in a massive revamp of retail at the Atlanta airport, and after the award of contracts for new restaurants on Concourse E. The airport shop contracts and Concourse E restaurant contracts have not yet gone to the Atlanta City Council for approval.

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