Issued October 21, 2016
SEATTLE—The first airport workers in the country to win a $15 minimum wage are now the latest to declare victory in the fight for union rights. Hundreds of baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, cart drivers, wheelchair agents, unaccompanied minor escorts and lavatory and water service fillers have won recognition of their union with the Service Employees International Union Local 6 at Sea-Tac.
Pioneers in the Fight for $15, Sea-Tac workers are now part of a growing nationwide campaign of underpaid airport workers fighting for $15 and the freedom to form a union. Airport workers are winning higher standards to keep the nation’s airports safe and secure.
“We’re on track to make Sea-Tac the best airport for passengers and workers,” says Ridwan Geele, who works on the Interline that brings passengers’ luggage through the airport for Delta contractor Air Serv. “Raising standards for all airport workers together is the best way to make Sea-Tac stronger.”
Geele joins nearly 1,000 workers at the airport who have won their union with SEIU Local 6.
Over the last five years, Sea-Tac airport workers have come together with other underpaid workers in the fight for $15 and union rights. In 2013, voters in the city of SeaTac joined with airport workers to raise the minimum wage to $15 in and around the airport. SeaTac voters set the standard by approving the first $15 minimum wage in the country.
“Ever since we won $15 for everyone who works in SeaTac, we’ve been on a roll,” Geele says. “I’d like to say we’re on a 3-year winning streak.”
In Washington State, airport workers’ actions have resulted in other major contractors coming into compliance with SeaTac’s minimum wage law, raising standards, and recognizing airport workers’ freedom to form their union without interference.
The Sea-Tac workers organizing with SEIU Local 6 are part of a growing movement of airport workers across the country calling out the low-bid contracting system which has lowered standards across the country—and building conditions for responsible contractors to raise standards.
Around the country, contracted airport workers are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of employees and their allies, raising their voices for $15 an hour and union rights to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. By sticking together, speaking out for change and going on strike, these employees have won wage increases in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, N.J., Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. More than 70,000 workers nationwide have received wage increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies as a result of the campaign.