I’m a Wheelchair Attendant at LAX and an Executive Board member of SEIU-USWW. Today, I’m in Amsterdam to meet with airport workers from all over the world who are standing up to the same global corporations that are wrecking our jobs.
What I see is like a mirror image. Just like in the U.S., airlines in other countries are contracting out to the lowest bidder—usually to irresponsible contractors that drive down wages, benefits, and other job standards. People are understaffed and overworked. They work so hard to make these companies’ profits, but can barely make ends meet themselves.
I want to take these experiences back with me and share them with our sisters and brothers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and beyond. We have truly raised the bar for airport jobs in California, but we have to keep pushing.
Before we won our union about 10 years ago, the pay was way too low, we didn’t have paid days off or benefits, and people were being mistreated. I wasn’t going to stand by and let anybody be disrespected. So I began organizing our union.
We’ve come a long way since then. I’m at $15.75 an hour now, which is double what it was before, and we have family health care and paid days off. We also passed an ordinance with the city that takes our pay up to at least $17 an hour for most people and $20 an hour for senior employees by 2021. Having a union has been a game changer and has made a big difference in my life. It’s a vehicle to fight injustices and make a good living.
That sense of things being right—I got that from home. My parents were involved with the labor and civil rights movements and my mother even brought Rosa Parks to speak at my elementary school in Detroit, where I grew up. My father worked for Chrysler and stayed active in the UAW even into retirement as the Secretary Treasurer of the retiree UAW Local 7. He was able to retire at 51 and live a good, long life.
I saw the power of a union back then and saw how important it was for everybody to be involved.
Airlines are global corporations. Many of their contractors are global. To keep improving our jobs, we have to join together on every continent. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what language we speak, or what we look like. When we stand in solidarity, we have strength across the world.
The airlines need us. When we stand up for each other and take on the airlines together, anything is possible.