Concession workers who were laid off during the height of the pandemic at John Wayne Airport have filed complaints with the state, alleging Bambuza Hospitality Group failed to call them back to work when business picked up again.
The 37 non-union employees say that’s a violation of Senate Bill 93.
The complaints to the state Department of Industrial Relations were filed Friday, Sept. 8 by Unite Here Local 11 on behalf of the workers.
Portland-based Bambuza took over three concession locations at the airport in July 2021. Those shops now operate as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchises and previously were Starbucks operated by the workers’ former employer, Host International.
Under SB 93, Bambuza is obligated to make offers of recall to qualified workers who were employed by the previous operator.
Signed into law in 2021, the legislation provides job protection for some 700,000 airline catering workers, cooks, housekeepers and waiters across California who were laid off during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Avelino Flores, one of the complainants, began work for Host International in December 2015, stocking and cleaning one of the Starbucks locations at JWA. He was laid off March 18, 2020, as the health crisis ramped up. He said things have been tough ever since.
“I’ve worked a number of jobs since then, but I’ve struggled to find full-time work,” the 65-year-old Westminster resident said. “My wife works, but that’s part-time so we have to take things day by day.”
The biggest priority, according to Flores, is coming up with enough money to pay the $1,250-a-month rent on their apartment. He was earning $13.30 an hour before being laid off from his airport job.
“No one from Bambuza has reached out to me,” he said.
Unite Here co-President Ada Briceno said SB 93 was written for good reason.
“The intent of the law is that workers who have dedicated years of service to these companies could be fairly brought back to work,” Briceno said in a statement. “We have seen time and time again how corporations try to go around the law, but brave workers like Avelino are standing up to that.”
Representatives with Bambuza could not be reached for comment Friday.
Penelope Guzman, who was also employed at one of the concession locations, has also failed to regain her job.
“I have never received any written notice offering me any position from Bambuza at its Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchises, whether by mail, email, or text message,” Guzman wrote in her complaint.
Guzman feels she should get her job back.
“I believe I am entitled under SB 93 to receive written notices from Bambuza informing me when a job position for which I am qualified has become available and offering me that position,” she said.
Bambuza isn’t the only airport concessionaire to run afoul of SB 93.
California regulators issued a $1.2 million citation to Flying Food Group last month, alleging the airline catering company was slow to recall 21 workers who were laid off during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic once business picked up again.
The state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement said the company, which services several airlines at Los Angeles International Airport, failed to properly recall the employees in order of their hire date at its Inglewood and San Francisco facilities, in violation of the Senate bill.
“This law was intended to end the displacement of workers during the pandemic due to no fault of their own, and that’s exactly what we are pursuing in this case,” Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said regarding the citation.
Source: Orange County Register