In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Airport Workers United took to the streets outside New York’s Laguardia airport, Philadelphia International Airport and Washington National Airport to strike for the gross injustices and inequality that persist at airports across the country.
Like the sanitation workers who were on strike with Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee the day before his assassination, terminal security officers and ramp workers face inhumane conditions at work and the daily heartbreak and humiliations of poverty, despite having full-time employment.
Skycaps, wheelchair agents and customer service agents are all demanding Congress take action to ensure taxpayer dollars do not continue to subsidize poverty jobs. According to a release from SEIU, they are calling on the federal government to take concrete measures to ensure any investments in airports are tied to requirements for responsible contracting policies that prioritize dignified wages for workers. It seems, many jobs in airports that are service based like skycaps are being considered “tipped jobs” by contractors because occasionally people will tip the skycap.
I’m sure you’ve been there, the week before the holidays, the guy or gal handling your bags at the counter is friendly and compassionate about your overwhelming fear of having your luggage lost. He reassures you and you slip him a few dollars, wish him a happy holiday and you’re on your way. If he or she is considered a tipped worker, the minimum wage for him is a mere $2.13 an hour. But the skycap is not a server working long shifts in the warmth of a restaurant, turning tables to try and get by. He or she is hurling heavy luggage onto the belt, and no one tips anymore. Yet, salary is still $2.13 an hour by these private contracting firms who manage the workers.
Despite helping generate $8 billion in profits for the aviation industry, contracted employees are still paid so little they can’t make ends meet; forcing many of them to rely on public assistance for their basic needs in spite of working full-time jobs. Airport workers have made progress in their journey for justice but the aviation industry continues to cut wages and with it goes the quality of service all from outsourcing jobs to often-irresponsible contractors.
This is nothing more than a low-road business model. These contractors literally take over the market at the expense of hardworking people who keep airports running.
If pitiful wages aren’t enough, in numerous lawsuits against airport contractors and related companies, workers report discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment based on race, national origin, sex, pregnancy, and religion. The allegations include exposure to degrading language, bullying, and wrongful termination.
You’ve seen the fast food workers in the Fight for Fifteen striking to raise awareness about the poverty wages they are paid and the hopes of raising the wage to $15 an hour. These airport workers are demanding the same dignity come to them. They no longer want these wages that are in the single digits and brutal working conditions.
Check out this video. “After 53 years working at Washington National Airport,” the description reads, “David Tucker makes $3.74 + tips.” Can you imagine living on such a wage? We’re not talking about the federal minimum wage. We’re talking about a man who helps and handles elected officials from all over the country and makes poverty wages doing it.
Check out the full report of what these workers did yesterday in the video below:
Featured image via video screenshot