Fort Lauderdale airport workers celebrated a hard-fought victory when the Broward County Commission voted to extend the County’s Living Wage Ordinance to include subcontracted airline workers.
The amendment will affect 1,700 wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, security officers, cabin cleaners and other passenger service workers who currently earn an average of $8.35 an hour—with more than 83.2% of those workers relying on some form of public assistance to survive. The living wage ordinance sets wages at $11.68 with health benefits, $13.20 without benefits.
“This is a great day in Broward County,” said Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness. “Today we will make things a little bit fairer for the hardworking men and women who make the airport run.”
“The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport is owned by the us and benefits from public dollars,” said Commissioner Mark Bogen. “It is our duty to ensure that our tax dollars support the creation of good paying jobs. I am proud to have taken this important step in raising industry and job standards for our community.”
“Sometimes the passengers tell me, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know how I could do it.’ Unfortunately, I can barely survive on what I earn,” said Gueldere Guerellis, a wheelchair attendant who works a second job to sustain his wife and three children. “I work round the clock and don’t sleep because I’m always worried about being evicted or if my electricity will be shut off. A living wage will finally give me peace of mind and let me spend more time with my family,” he added.
From Boston to Philadelphia, New York, to Seattle, thousands of airport workers have won living wage increases, better benefits, and union rights. This is the first victory in a “right to work” state, Florida, which ranks 4th in income inequality, and whose low-wage workforce is largely made up of immigrants and people of color.
“As we take a moment to thank the Commission and savor this win, we know that ultimately we cannot rely solely on public policies to make airport jobs good jobs again,” said Helene O’Brien, Florida State Director for SEIU 32BJ. “Organizing collectively is what built the middle class. Corporations didn’t just decide to end child labor or give us the eight-hour workday. These victories were hard fought battles that we won by standing together and demanding justice.”
“Moving forward, we will continue to fight for truly affordable health insurance, full time employment, and paid sick leave,” O’Brien added.