Workers to lobby for $15 airport bill and support new report that finds global airline industry has created a race to the bottom for safety
WHAT: Airport workers’ global day of action against declining standards: State House lobbying for $15-an-hour airport bill; South Station leafleting
WHO: Airport workers and 32BJ members
WHERE/WHEN: 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM constituent lobbying at State House
2:30 PM South Station rally and leafletting, Main Entrance, corner Summer St & Atlantic Ave (workers available for interviews)
VISUALS: Rally includes mic check reading of pledge, marching, 32BJ t-shirts, use of international banner reading, “Airlines: $36 billion in profits, Workers: underpaid and under pressure”
BOSTON — As corporate executives of the world’s airlines gather in Dublin for the International Air Transport Association’s meeting and World Air Transport Summit, airport workers across the globe will take action on June 1 to draw attention to the fact that those who have helped the industry earn record profits are being underpaid, overworked, and overlooked.
In Boston, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers and others will raise one component of a solution as they lobby the Massachusetts State Legislature for passage of the $15-an-hour airport bill, “An Act Relative to Fair Wages” (H. 3923, S.2125). Later in the day, other workers will distribute leaflets and publicly pledge themselves to the fight, standing outside South Station beside a banner that reads, “Airlines: $36 billion in profits, Workers: underpaid and under pressure.”
Similar actions will be held in New York City, Philadelphia and Newark, and at major airports around the globe, including in Ireland, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and Sweden. The efforts are spearheaded by a new global coalition called Airports United that is determined to secure economic justice and higher standards for airport service workers no matter where they work.
Despite unprecedented profits, the aviation industry continues to drive down wages and working standards, putting workers under increasing pressure. As a result, airports have become a locus of low-wages, exploitation, unfairness and inequality instead of economic drivers and generators of good jobs.
A new report by the London-based International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) —a global organization of 700 trade unions in 147 countries, representing nearly 4.8 million transport workers including over 650,000 aviation workers— finds that workers in areas such as security, wheelchair assistance, fueling, cargo and baggage handling, cabin cleaning and passenger check-in face a working environment marked by stress, irregular working patterns and wage levels that are often insufficient to meet their basic living costs.
Airport workers worldwide are also concerned that low wages, high turnover, inadequate training and safety standards not only put them in danger but also hurt passengers by impacting security and quality of service.
In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels’ Zaventem airport, U.S. airport workers went on strike and called for more workforce investment and emergency preparedness training for all airport workers worldwide. As both that attack and a 2013 shooting at LAX showed, airport service workers are often the first responders in emergencies. According to press reports, Brussels baggage handler Alphonse Lyoura pulled seven people to safety. Shortly after the LAX shooting, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti publicly acknowledged the heroic actions of LAX service workers, including one passenger service agent who made the first call to police and stayed at the site while others were fleeing.
The ITF report concludes that the decline in standards is easily preventable. Cost cutting is driving this race to the bottom, but airlines have the power to stop it and put in place a sustainable employment model, one that is capable of retaining a skilled and experienced workforce.
The airport workers’ global day of action is supported by UNI Global Union, which represents 20 million workers from over 150 countries in the skills and services sectors.
Around the United States, contracted airport workers are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of working people and their allies, raising their voices for $15 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 Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, N.J., Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. More than 70,000 airport workers nationwide have either received wage increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies as a result of the campaign.
With 145,000 members in 11 states — including nearly 18,000 members in Massachusetts —32BJ is the largest property service union in the country.