Arlington, VA -In advance of the Pope’s highly-anticipated visit, airport workers, led by longtime activist and pastor of Plymouth United Congregational Church, Rev. Graylan Hagler, will hold a “worker pray-in” at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday, to implore Pope Francis to recognize the thousands of workers who struggle to get by in the Washington region. The group will deliver palm cards quoting the Pope’s messages around poverty and a petition urging contractors to improve their working conditions. The workers, many who have families and juggle multiple jobs and at the airport earn as little as $6.75-8/hr, are seeking a living wage, improved training and adequate resources.
1:00-1:15 PM – Rev. Graylan Hagler & clergy to bless workers in airport conference room 120 (main level before pathway from Terminal A to Terminal B)
1:15-2:00 PM – Workers to deliver petition to contractors: ATS (Terminal A), walking outside to PrimeFlight (Terminal C – lower level), then to Eulen (Terminal B/C)
2:00-2:30 PM – Workers to share reactions and pray in airport conference room 120 (main level before pathway from Terminal A to Terminal B)
Their palm cards will read: “For the past three years airport workers around the country have been standing up and organizing for just working conditions, fair pay and benefits. As DCA workers continue to fight for their rights, Pope Francis’, the People’s Pope, calls on, and inspires us to help the downtrodden and do what is right and just.”
Hundreds of thousands will pass through the airport, brushing shoulders with airport workers that face the kind of poverty and injustice that the Holy Father regularly condemns. Pope Francis has been heralded as the voice of the disenfranchised and has spoken freely about the need for workers to organize. On Tuesday, airport workers will pray for his safe passage through the U.S. and for him to recognize their struggle on his way through the airport.
These are the men and women who work for airline contractors and are critical to keeping DCA running smooth. They’re baggage handlers, sky caps, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners, ramp workers, passenger assistance representatives, check-point screeners, fuelers, and security officers. Contracted airport service workers are excluded from the airport’s living wage law and are overwhelmingly African and Latino immigrants and African-Americans.
With more than 145,000 members in 11 states, including 17,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.