Last week, airport workers at the Philadelphia International Airport voted to strike during the DNC. These brave men and women have been fighting for $15 and a union and have faced illegal bullying and intimidation from their employers when they speak out for better lives. It is outrageous that when baggage handlers, line queues, cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants working for subcontractors of American and other airlines organize higher wages and a union, their employers began to illegally threaten them and silence their voices on the job. Because of these actions, Philadelphia airport workers have faced the difficult decision to go on strike.
“We’ve tried to make our voice heard but our employers always find new ways to silence us with bullying and intimidation. It is time for us to have a union so that we can be treated with respect, have decent work schedules and benefits,” said Charles “Preach” Jones, a baggage handler with PrimeFlight.
The Philadelphia DNC strike is taking place amidst record profits for the aviation industry while many airport workers continue to live in abject poverty. Last year alone the airlines raked in more than $23 billion in profits. Meanwhile, Philadelphia remains the worst city for deep poverty in America—with black Philadelphians twice as likely to live in poverty as whites.
“Exploiting people for cheap labor should not be an option for a prospering city—at the Philadelphia airport or in our communities,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP National Board member. “We cannot truly address racial injustice unless we fix a deeply broken system that depends on cheap black labor.”
The mostly-African American and African immigrant airport workers are employed by subcontractors who work primarily for American Airlines, but for other airlines as well. Thirty years ago airlines began subcontracting out work that used to be done by union workers. This low-bid subcontracting system has left subcontracted workers in airports in poverty and resulted in high turnover and short staffing in all airport jobs.