HMS Host employees complain to Starbucks about understaffing

June 14, 2021

HMS Host workers at Starbucks locations at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport escalated a campaign to address understaffing by contacting Starbucks Corp. The workers complain that although air traffic has returned, the airport’s Starbucks locations have less than half of their pre-pandemic staff, and that improved wages and benefits are needed to recruit and retain staff.

According to a statement from United Here Local 11, a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers, the understaffing complaints come as air traffic and sales have returned from the pandemic downturn. Data from the City of Phoenix for April 2021 show nearly 1.6 million enplanements at Sky Harbor, a 1,013.6% increase from April 2020. The April 2021 numbers show that the airport is at 79% of pre-pandemic enplanement levels when compared with April 2019. In April 2021, there were 3.2 million total enplanements and deplanements, approximately 79% of April 2019 levels.

United Here here claims the City of Phoenix has granted HMS Host significant relief in the form of a rent waiver, reportedly worth $10.9 million, meaning that the company is neither paying full rent nor paying a full workforce, while travel is back in force.

Global restaurateur HMS Host announced its multi-year coffee service partnership with Starbucks in February.

“I want to do my job well, but it’s really hard when we are so understaffed,” said Victoria Stahl, a barista in Terminal 4. “I have seen coworkers come and go because they get fed up. I hope the Starbucks corporation pushes HMS Host to staff up the way they should.”

The workers at Sky Harbor Airport are in contract negotiations with HMS Host. The City of Phoenix will next receive an update on HMS Host’s rent relief at a city council meeting this month.