USA. Global travel restaurateur HMSHost has dismissed as “completely untrue” claims from hospitality workers union Unite Here that racial pay disparities exist at the company.

The union has published a report which it says shows that the median wage for black baristas at Starbucks locations operated by HMSHost in 27 US airports was US$1.85 less than for white baristas.

The HMSHost-operated Starbucks locations at Seattle Tacoma International (above) and Austin Bergstrom International (below) airports. The company has strongly refuted labour union claims of discrimination in pay, language and employee treatment.

In its report, ‘One Job Should Be Enough: Inequality at Starbucks’, the union also claimed that Starbucks workers employed by HMSHost at airports across the US are living in poverty, while it said LGBTQ baristas reported “offensive and transphobic comments from managers, harassment regarding their gender expression, and repeated misgendering”.

However, HMSHost suggested the union was spreading “false information” with the objective of improving its bargaining position as new contract terms are negotiated.

HMSHost’s full statement reads: “As Unite Here is aware, all wage rates have been negotiated and agreed upon by the union during its collective bargaining agreements with HMSHost and these rates are not based on race. So, Unite Here’s allegation that racial pay disparities exist within HMSHost is completely untrue. HMSHost does not discriminate against our associates with respect to pay or any other term or condition of employment. Unite Here continues to spread false information about HMSHost with the sole objective of exerting pressure and gaining leverage.”

The union’s claims are based on a survey it conducted with 309 of an estimated 2,512 Starbucks workers employed by HMSHost at 29 airports in the US between September 2019 and February 2020. The results do not appear to have been verified by a third party, and represent a participation rate of 12.3%. The Moodie Davitt Report understands that over 50% of the Starbucks workers employed by HMSHost are unionised.

Unite Here’s report also stated that airport Starbucks stores remained open during the period that domestic Starbucks closed stores for racial bias training in 2018. More than 25% of the immigrant workers surveyed reported “being told not to speak their preferred language at work”, according to the report.

The union said workers would distribute leaflets at over 700 Starbucks stores in over 40 cities across North America on 27 February calling on the coffee company and coffeehouse chain “to use whatever power it has to fix these problems at HMSHost’s Starbucks stores, to create an inclusive and equitable environment, and to make one job at airport Starbucks enough to live on”.

As reported, a long-standing US airport exclusivity between Starbucks and HMHost recently came to an end. Starbucks has since announced OTG, Paradies Lagardère and Areas USA as additional airport partners. HMSHost said it wanted to “broaden its portfolio of coffee brands based on what consumers and airport partners are demanding”.

NOTE: The Moodie Davitt Report also publishes FAB, the world’s only media focused on airport (and other travel-related) food & beverage. The FAB Newsletter is published every two weeks and The FAB eZine every month.

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The company also organises the annual Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference & Awards. FAB 2020 will be held in Istanbul on 23 and 24 June. Istanbul Airport will host the event, which will be a celebration not only of the best in international airport dining but also of Turkish cuisine and culture. FAB 2020 will be supported strongly by Tum & Ictur, the concessionaire managing 34,000sq m of food & beverage space at Istanbul Airport.