Cabin cleaners, baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants at major U.S. hubs will join thousands of other low-wage airport workers in a national day of protest Tuesday to demand better wages.
Authorities say the demonstrations, planned for airports in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and elsewhere will have minimal impacts on operations, but workers are hoping they will draw the attention of travelers returning from the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Workers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport are taking more serious steps and planning to strike.
This could be the largest demonstration of service industry workers as part of the growing labor movement known as the Fight for $15.
Organizers say their message to Washington, President-elect Trump and other elected officials is that they won’t stay quiet in regard to efforts to block wage increases, end healthcare options and deport immigrants.
“We will take our first steps together to fight back for our families and communities,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union told members in a call to join the Nov. 29 national action. “Together we will keep fighting for $15 (an hour minimum wage), a union, racial, immigrant, and environmental justice.”
As part of the demonstrations, fast food restaurant workers plan to walk out on their jobs in cities across the country and be joined by other workers in healthcare, retail and maintenance. Street marches are planned to protest police killings of black Americans and Trump’s plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
In Washington, workers from Reagan National and Dulles International airports will rally with supporters and announce a vote to go on strike in coming weeks. A year after joining the national campaign for better pay and benefits, the Washington area workers have shifted their fight to the airports’ governing body, demanding that it require firms doing business at the region’s two commercial airports to pay their workers a minimum of $15 per hour.
Demonstrations are planned beginning at noon at 19 airports, serving 2 million passengers a day. They include Seattle, San Francisco, Newark, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale.
“Every day we make sure passengers get to their gates safely, get their luggage and get on a clean plane, but our families can’t get by,” said Nancy Vasquez, a skycap at Newark Liberty International Airport, who earns $2.10 an hour plus tips.
In the past two decades many of the service jobs at airports have been outsourced to companies that pay minimum wages and offer little or no benefits. A recent survey of workers at 30 U.S. airports found that 42 percent of the workers live in poverty.
The demonstrations are planned on the fourth anniversary of the launch of Fight for $15. Since the movement began, wage increases have been won in Los Angeles, New York, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland and Fort Lauderdale.