Open Letter to the Broward County Commission

We are asking you to use your power to improve the situation for the thousands of workers that make Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport a world class airport.

germaMy name is Germa I have been a janitor for Sunshine Cleaning at the Fort Lauderdale¬Hollywood Airport for 14 years. You may have seen me while you were waiting for your flight. I’m the one sweeping the terminals, picking up the empty food containers, and cleaning up the gum from underneath the seats. My co¬workers and I keep the bathrooms spotless for you; not an easy task considering the millions of people that pass through our airport. If we stopped working for just one hour, you wouldn’t believe the mess you would see.

And we’re customer service too. If I see someone is lost and need help getting their connection, I always give them directions. I’m from Haiti and I speak Creole and Spanish, so I can help people in many different languages. My job is important. But with the money I earn, I feel like I’m not respected.

Sunshine Cleaning is contracted by Broward County. I get paid the County Living Wage of $11.84 an hour with health insurance. But my out of pocket costs are so high, it’s almost like not having any insurance at all. My last doctor’s checkup was more than $100. My salary is not enough to pay my bills. I don’t have anything extra to take care of myself. The truth is, $11.84 is not a living wage. Working full time, that’s only $24,627 per year—just a couple of hundred dollars above the poverty line for a family of four. We are barely surviving.

Throughout the years, my wages have increased by just a few cents. After the commission amended the law in 2008 to cap increases, we didn’t get a single raise for four years. In the past eight years our wages have gone up an average of just 0.8%. That won’t even buy me a cup of coffee.

When it’s payday I get excited to treat myself to something nice. I think, “I’ll buy myself a gallon of juice.” But then I realize I have to pay my rent, car insurance, electricity, and groceries. It’s not easy. I want a better life my children but it’s hard when you can’t save anything. My daughter, who is in college, had to drop two classes this semester because we couldn’t afford the tuition. And recently, my car broke down but I didn’t have the money to fix it. My children and I had to take two buses to go to school and go to work, until we were able to borrow the money to get the car fixed.

According to a new study by FIU, Broward’s Living Wage Law has not kept up with inflation. Furthermore, the required employer healthcare contribution is not enough to provide quality health insurance plans. Meanwhile, Miami airport workers are paid the Miami Dade County Living Wage of $15.52 an hour without health insurance, and $12.63 with health care. Their employer paid contribution is almost twice as much as Broward’s. The cost of living in all of South Florida is expensive, not just Miami. The average cost of an apartment in Broward County is more than $1550 a month.

There is no reason why we are making so much less at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. I feel like a second class citizen.

We are asking you to use your power to improve the situation for the thousands of workers that make Fort Lauderdale¬Hollywood International Airport a world class airport. You should amend the Living Wage law so that it keeps up with the cost of living here in South Florida. You should increase the employer health care contribution so that it actually pays for decent health insurance plans that we can use.

We need you to make the Broward County Living Wage Law truly livable.