Charlotte Rally part of nationwide protests at airports that control 45% of all U.S. domestic air travel; 65% of U.S. travel through major hubs
[Charlotte, NC] — Amid holiday travel chaos and staffing shortages, overworked and understaffed Charlotte Airport cabin cleaners, wheelchair agents, trash collectors, and other airport workers who are organizing with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), joined protests in 15 major cities to call on Congress to pass the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act, which will ensure airport service workers have living wages and life-saving benefits such as paid time off and healthcare. Labor representatives and supporters of the bill including SEIU, CWA, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and Raise Up joined the rowdy protest.
“I had to go back to work a month after my baby was born, because I couldn’t afford to stay home without pay. Many of us have to work overtime or multiple jobs, just to pay the bills,” said Morgani Brown a cabin cleaner employed by the airline contractor, JetStream, which does not offer paid maternity leave. “Because of our hard work, families can travel and reunite during the holidays, but we rarely have time to spend with our own loved ones.”
Morgani and other airport workers spoke about how unbearable working conditions, low pay, and lack of benefits, like paid sick days are fueling high turnover rates. Some JetStream cabin cleaners say they often come into contact with vomit, blood, and feces but are understaffed and are sometimes given just a few minutes to clean planes. Others report having to work in the extreme North Carolina heat during the summer without sufficient access to drinking water.
“We’re working in 90 degree weather, carrying bags of trash that can weigh 70 pounds,” said Shawn Montgomery, a cabin cleaner for Jetstream. “I’ve injured both of my knees coming down the steps and now I have to wear knee braces. Sometimes we don’t even have easy access to water. It can be dangerous when you’re walking in the heat out on the asphalt.”
According to a 2017 UC Berkeley study, better wages encourage employee retention and improve airport security. The Good Jobs for Good Airports Act will ensure airport service jobs at our publicly-funded airports have minimum wage and benefit standards that will help stabilize the workforce, keeping airports secure and travelers on time.
“We’re short staffed because the pay and benefits are not enough for what we do,” said Shonda Barber, a JetStream trash truck driver who sometimes fills in as a cabin cleaner. “I work 60 hours a week and am just barely surviving. We don’t get enough paid time off, even during the pandemic. I lost two weeks without pay when I had to quarantine. We need Congress to step up and make sure these are good jobs. That’s good for workers and for passengers.”
Without healthcare, paid leave, safe working conditions or protections on the job, airport service workers—whose wages have been near poverty level for the past 20 years—are facing a crisis fueled by corporate greed.
With more than 175,000 members in 12 states, including 18,000 contracted airport workers, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.
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