PHILADELPHIA-Tensions ran high today at the Philadelphia International Airport as hundreds of airport workers walked off the job to join a 1,000 person demonstration which poured into the street in front of the terminals.
In the run up to a looming strike during the DNC, airport workers walked off the job to join the demonstration.
“Enough is enough; we’re tired of living in poverty and being mistreated. That’s why we decided to strike during the DNC and why walked off today. There will be no peace at the Philadelphia International Airport until we get justice,” said LaQuanda Hayes , a wheelchair attendant with Prospect.
The walk off and demonstration comes one week after an overwhelming majority of airport workers voted to strike during the DNC. The airport workers employed by American Airlines’ subcontractors, PrimeFlight, Prospect and McGinn have experienced illegal bullying and intimidation as they organize for $15 and union.
Since last week’s vote to strike during the DNC, some PHL subcontractors have attempted to intimidate workers into not striking and have offered bonuses and $24 an hour to work today and during the DNC. An obvious ploy to head off a strike, the $24 an hour offer is particularly insulting given the subcontractors vociferous opposition to implementing the $12 an hour minimum wage.
“These subcontractors cannot bribe their workers into silence,” said Gabe Morgan, 32BJ SEIU. “They’re going to continue fighting for what they deserve. Without these workers, the DNC and every other major event would not be possible. The first thing the Democrats should see when they arrive shouldn’t be Philadelphia’s largest sweatshop.”
“Today was a look at what’s to come next week. We still plan on striking if we have to,” said Alfred Williams, a baggage handler with PrimeFlight. “We won’t back down even as our employers threaten, bribe and intimidate us.”
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.
Holding a banner that said “Respect Black Workers” clergy members from POWER and elected officials join the demonstrators.
“These black workers are refusing to be left behind as the city prospers. They are taking a brave stand again poverty and we will do everything in our power to support them,” said Reverend Holston of POWER.
“Everyone will be watching Philadelphia next week. It is an embarrassment to our city that airline subcontractors mistreat their workers and fight to keep them in poverty,” said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez.
“We will not leave thousands of black airport workers, or any workers, behind while the airports rake in billions,” said Senator Vincent hughes.” $15 and a union will make our city stronger.”
With 155,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.