Union claims American airport food-service firm wrongfully stymying organizing efforts

BIV's lawsuit of the week

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Hospitality workers’ union Unite Here Local 40 is suing SSP America Inc., claiming the American airport food-service conglomerate is wrongfully withholding names of employees at new franchises slated to open at the Vancouver airport.

The union filed a notice of civil claim in BC Supreme Court on January 29. According to the lawsuit, the union and SSP America inked a “memorandum of agreement” (MOA) in 2014, ensuring the union’s access to employees for organizing efforts “to avoid picketing and/or other economic action directed at the employer.” With written notice, the agreement stipulates that the company would furnish the union with a complete list of employees, both full- and part-time, with information about their job classifications and contact information.

Between 2014 and 2017, SSP America provided the requested information, but it stopped in August 2017, claiming the agreement had expired. The union challenged the company with the BC Labour Relations Board, but its application was dismissed in July 2018. SSP America, the union claims, wrongfully asserted that the deal expired in January 2018, with only a Carl’s Jr. franchise opening in 2015 as the last business covered under the agreement. 

“However, in January 2016, the employer announced its bid to open various franchises at the airport including ‘Lift’, which opened in or around December 2016, and ‘Freshii’, which opened in or around March 2017,” the claim states. “Given that these contracts were entered into within two years of the signing of the MOA, and given that these restaurants opened within the last three years, the MOA is clearly still in effect until at least March 2020.”

The union claims its attempts to arbitrate the dispute have been unsuccessful after “numerous” communications with SSP’s Los Angeles-based lawyers.

“However, no arbitrator has been agreed to, and the defendant continues to breach the MOA including by refusing to acknowledge it is still in force,” the claim states.

Unite Here Local 40 seeks an order acknowledging its deal with the employer is in force until March 2020, and an order compelling SSP America to provide a complete list of employees as requested. The allegations have not been proven in court and the defendant had not responded to the claim by press time.