The workers, from the union Unite Here, had also contributed to the snarling of holiday traffic on what’s considered one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
“We’re out here protesting across the country because we’re sick and tired of being the lowest-paid and worst-treated workers in the airline industry,” said one Unite Here member in a press release.
The protesting airline workers were said to be protesting over wages and health benefits, specifically those provided, or not provided, to employees working for subcontractors serving American Airlines. According to the press release, about a quarter of the employees working for subcontractors LSG SkyChefs or Gate Gourmet make less than $12 per hour, and an estimated 30 percent of those working for SkyChefs were uninsured, with another 35 percent relying on government-subsidized healthcare.
“It’s long past time for American Airlines, along with the rest of the industry, to do better by the people who make sure their flights are ready for take-off,” Unite Here President D. Taylor said in the release.
Demonstrations took place in 16 cities, largely in major air hubs in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco, among others. Photographs and footage from some of the demonstrations show protesters participating in “die-ins” at some of the airports.
As of Tuesday night, hundreds of the estimated thousands of protestors had been arrested. More than 60 were taken into custody at JFK, per CBS New York; 50 were arrested at San Francisco International Airport, per the San Francisco Chronicle; 39 were arrested at Philadelphia International Airport, per the Philadelphia Inquirer; and more than a dozen were taken into custody at LAX, the Los Angeles Times reported. Many others were arrested at additional airport demonstrations across the country, as well.
On Tuesday evening, American Airlines had released a statement, saying it was “confident” that its catering contractors would soon reach an agreement with Unite Here’s members.
“We understand that new labor contracts between Unite Here and LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet will result in increased costs for their many airline customers, including American,” the carrier wrote in a statement shared with ABC 7. “We are not in a position to control the outcome of their negotiations or dictate what wages or benefits are agreed upon between the catering companies and their employees.”
Fox News' Michael Hollan contributed to this report.