Global Strikes at Airport Over Fair Pay and Benefits
Emboldened by a win in NY, airport workers are fighting for better wages and benefits
Airports across the world are facing protests today as airport workers are taking their fight for better wages and benefits to some of the world’s largest airports and hubs. The actions are being organized by SEIU, International Transport Workers' Federation and the UNI Global Union.
In the US, nearly half of all airport employees report being paid so little that they are forced to skip meals or go hungry. About 30% say that they rely on government assistance. At the same time, airlines like United made billions in profits last year. The workers on strike are baggage handlers, security officers, cabin cleaners, janitors, and wheelchair attendants. Over the last few years, more and more of these jobs have been given to subcontractors who pay lower wages and provide little to no benefits. While nearly every non-managerial employee at United Airlines is union, almost no person handling the bags or cleaning up the United terminal is a member of a union.
The fight to organize and raise the wages of airport workers is not a new fight. This has been a major focus of the Fight for $15 for a number of years and they recently won a big victory in New York. At the three airports under the control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Newark International Airport, JFK and LaGuardia, all employees will now be paid a minimum of $19 an hour. This will be the highest airport minimum wage in the country.
“Major airlines take billions in tax dollars every year. They have the responsibility—and the ability—to stand up for good, union jobs and to stop driving a race to the bottom at airports around the world,” says Kevin De León, Los Angeles State Senator and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. “At LAX, union airport workers doubled wages and won full family health care, and now are fighting back against the airlines who are trying to undermine those gains. Workers at SFO are now pushing for those same things. On October 2, workers will be out in force telling airlines they need to play a leadership role in our communities by providing good union jobs at airports in California and across the entire country.”
This week thousands of fast food workers in the Midwest will also walk out on strike as part of the Fight for $15 movement.