Issued November 19, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. –As contracted airport workers at the seven busiest U.S. hubs are on strike today, congressional leaders held a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, to call for better jobs for employees whose dedication and hard work help keep our nation’s airports safe and secure. The workers are on strike to protest their employers interfering with their right to join together to demand $15 and union rights.
“The decision to go strike is a very difficult one to make because I have a daughter to feed and a mother that I am taking care of,” said Jean Timmer, a cabin cleaner employed by Ultimate at JFK Airport in New York City. “But I am only paid $10.10 for the hard work that I do and you can imagine how hard it is to make ends meet, much less support a family, on such low pay in New York City.”
Despite helping to generate $8 billion in profits for the airline industry, contracted staff are still paid so little they can’t make ends meet, forcing many of them to rely on public assistance for their basic needs.
“When someone works as hard as these airport workers, they deserve a livable wage that can support their families, decent benefits, and the ability to represent themselves,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.),. “I am proud to stand with SEIU and airport workers across the country on this national day of action to fight for dignity, respect and workplace fairness.”
These jobs used to be good jobs but the airline industry is driving down wages and quality of service by outsourcing jobs often to irresponsible contractors. This low-road business model has resulted in a system where bottom-feeder contractors have taken over the market, and intimidation and harassment are now routine for these hardworking men and women who keep our airports running.
“I’m a single mother supporting a teenage son and my sick mother,” said Sharon Cruz Holguin, a line queue officer at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. “I am paid minimum wage and we can’t live on these low wages. My co-workers are on strike today after private contractors retaliated against them for speaking out for change.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to the workers last month, expressing her support for their efforts to improve conditions. “I'm proud to support you in calling for safe working conditions, decent benefits, and fair wages for every airport worker in the country. Airport jobs should be good jobs and together, we can make sure they are.”
Airport personnel in Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore., are participating in the national day of action by holding demonstrations and rallies.
“I am joining fellow airport workers and supporters to say that it is past time for our airports to provide good jobs and wages that we can support our families on,” said Julie Hayden, a janitor at Portland International Airport in Oregon, who attended the news conference.
Workers across the country are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of employees and their allies, raising their voices for $15 and union rights to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, staff and our communities. By sticking together, speaking out for change, and protesting, they have won wage increases in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, N.J., Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Now, more than 53,000 airport workers nationwide have either received wages increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies.
“The strikes and all the actions we saw demonstrate the problems that we face as airport workers are nationwide problems that we need to address nationally,” said Alex Hoopes, who works for contractor AirServ at the Sea-Tac International Airport.