As Airlines Seek $60 Billion Bailout, Contracted Baggage Handlers, Cabin Cleaners, Wheelchair Attendants and other Airport Workers Demand They Are Not Left Behind
WASHINGTON, D.C.—SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and contracted airport workers from some of the nation’s top airports are urgently calling on Congress to ensure that any airline bailout prioritizes the health, safety, and economic security of the contracted airport workers who keep our airports running every day. Airport workers support economic relief for airlines and airports, which are often the biggest worksites in many of our cities, and that relief must include frontline airport workers.
“It is crucial that policy-makers make absolutely sure that all air transportation workers get support if the airlines get support,” says Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU. “We can’t let airlines get away with pocketing a bailout while contracted workers suffer. They need to share the responsibility to address the crisis by supporting those on the front lines. Airport workers—regardless of how old they are, the color of their skin, where they were born, or how much money they make—need equal access to testing, treatment and economic support.”
Cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, and other airport workers are at the center of the coronavirus pandemic and play a critical role in stopping infections from spreading throughout the U.S. aviation system and into cities and towns across the country. Many of them are already struggling on low pay and without paid sick days or health benefits and now many have been laid off or face possible layoffs.
“When the layoffs happen, I know it will send airport workers in a tailspin,” says Ben McMillan, a wheelchair attendant at the Philadelphia International Airport. “How will we continue to provide for our loved ones? I spend hours at the airport pushing grandparents and disabled passengers, but who’s going to take care of me in my time of need? Congress needs to ensure the airlines don’t receive a bailout unless hardworking contracted airport workers are protected.”
In this unprecedented time, Congress should do all it can to protect the economic health of the nation, but it is critical that contracted airport workers who come into close contact with millions of passengers every day have full access to emergency relief like layoff protection, paid sick leave, and affordable health care.
Contracted airport workers around the country are coming together in Airport Workers United to raise their voices for fair wages and union rights. By sticking together, speaking out, and going on strike 32,000 airport workers have joined SEIU and 155,000 have won raises or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave, and job protections.