West Park, FL — Over 300 workers rallied with local clergy on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s address to striking sanitation workers before his assassination, demanding that South Florida institutions fight income inequality which disproportionately hurts black Caribbean immigrants and African-Americans. In 1968, King spoke to workers earning what would amount to $12 per hour today accounting for inflation, in sharp contrast to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport workers who today, earn as little as $4.91 per hour and often rely on public programs to get by.
“This is an election year, you must used your power and vote for change,” said Rev. Joe Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Greater Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church of Hallandale.
“Mayor Barbara Sharief is behind you 100%,” a representative from the Mayor’s office told the crowd of fast-food, Wal-Mart, airport and hospitality workers.
President Obama is calling for elected officials and business leaders nationwide to do whatever they can to raise wages which has the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of party affiliation support.
“I can’t afford the gas I need to drive to my poverty wage job,” said Rasahad Grant who works at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Airport, which is owned by Broward County, is one of the most important economic engines in South Florida. Yet, airlines are using low-bid contractors who routinely cut costs on the backs of employees to increase profits at the top, exacerbating an ever-widening income gap.
Passenger service workers at Kennedy Airport and LaGuardia Airport who make $9 or less are now getting an immediate $1-an-hour raise with a phase-in to $10.10. Those airlines also committed to work toward providing an improved wage and benefits package to the thousands of airport workers.
With more than 145,000 members in 11 states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.