City Attorney David Chiu

City Attorney Chiu statement on federal court ruling upholding SFO health care law

Decision protects the safety, security, and continuity of operations of SFO by ensuring airport workers’ access to high quality health care

SAN FRANCISCO (April 6, 2022) — San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu released the following statement today after a federal judge upheld a San Francisco law that requires employers to provide health care benefits to certain airport workers in order to further safety and security at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Judge Edward M. Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the City was within its authority to enact the Healthy Airport Ordinance (HAO) in order to protect the continuity and security of airport operations for the 58 million people who travel through SFO annually.

City Attorney David Chiu
City Attorney David Chiu

“In order to have a secure, well-functioning airport, we have to make sure our workers are healthy,” said City Attorney Chiu. “I am pleased the Court agreed that San Francisco was acting within its authority to ensure airport workers have adequate health care access, and to thereby promote passenger safety and security at SFO.”

Case Background
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (Board) passed the HAO in November 2020 requiring employers to provide adequate health care benefits for certain workers and ensuring a resilient workforce and the continuity of operations at SFO during the pandemic.

In passing the HAO, the Board noted airline employees who provide essential safety and security services at the airport are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. The City asserted the benefits required by the law help the airport recruit high quality employees, reduce turnover and absences, decrease the spread of infectious disease, and ensure the safety and security of the airport.

The HAO builds off of longstanding City ordinances that establish minimum compensation and benefits standards applied to certain workers at SFO who are essential to airport operations like security staff, baggage handlers, In its decision, the court agreed with the City that while conditions changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the core purpose and function of SFO’s safety and security program, as enhanced by the HAO, remains the same.

Airlines for America, a trade association and lobbying group that represents the airline employers, filed this lawsuit challenging the HAO shortly after it went into effect in March 2021.

The case is Airlines for America v. City and County of San Francisco, United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Case No. 21-cv-02341-EMC.