Thousands of airport workers across the country protested unfair wages and labor practices on Thursday and demanded that Congress take action to protect them.
Airport services workers, including baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors, security guards and wheelchair attendants rallied in 15 cities across the U.S. to demand better working conditions and living wages, according to the Service Employees International Union. Workers in three major hubs ― Chicago, Boston and Newark ― went on strike.
The latest action comes nearly nine months after airport workers staged major protests nationwide over their working conditions.
“We’re calling on Congress to get major airlines to make sure that they invest in frontline workers all across this country,” SEIU president Mary Kay Henry said in a video for the union’s Twitter.
The wages of airport service workers have been near the poverty level for decades, according to SEIU. Verna Montalvo, a cabin cleaner at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, said during a Thursday news conference on Capitol Hill that people work overtime just to make ends meet, but even then, the pay is still “not enough.”
“Airport workers like me and working people all across the economy are fed up. Without us, no one could travel safely to visit their families over the holidays,” Montalvo said in a separate statement shared by SEIU. “Seeing smiles on passengers’ faces gives me a huge sense of pride, but it comes at a huge cost when I can’t support my own family on poverty wages.”
Airport service workers have been asking corporations for living wages, affordable health care, sick days and other protections since the beginning of the pandemic, SEIU said in a statement.
Workers urged Congress to hold corporations accountable through the Good Jobs For Good Airports Act, which would require all major airports that receive federal funding to set minimum wage and benefit standards.
The legislation was introduced in June by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jesús García (D-Ill.).
“Airport workers risked their own health and the safety of their families to keep America moving during the pandemic. The least we can do is ensure they have good wages, decent benefits, and safe working conditions,” García said in a statement at the time.
Markey and other members of Congress joined workers and allies at their press conference.
“If the federal government is giving $11 billion to the airports of our country, they have to share it with the workers at the airport,” Markey said. “They must get the benefits from the federal money which we put in. That’s what we’re going to fight for and that’s what we’re going to make the law of the United States of America.”