Philadelphia-On the eve of a major City Council hearing concerning the city’s lease with US Airways, dozens of PHL workers and supporters from the community marched through the airport to USAirways, demanding that the airline honor the city’s minimum wage and benefits standard for all airport workers.
“I make $2.83 per hour plus tips and I have three children to support. A living wage at the airport would change my life,” said skycap Brahim Alexander. “I want City Council to stand up to US Airways and fight for workers at the airport.”
The city’s soon-to-expire lease with US Airways could provide an opportunity to raise wages and standards for 2,000 low-wage subcontracted workers including baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, skycaps and cabin cleaners. But with intense lobbying pressure from US Airways, City Council may succumb to pressure and keep a status quo that leaves thousands of airport workers stuck in poverty.
“US Airways should not stand in the way of airport workers trying to earn a living wage. US Airways can afford to do the right thing – they just don’t want to,” said Wayne MacManiman, Mid-Atlantic district director of 32BJ SEIU. “We’re counting on City Council to put hard-working Philadelphians ahead of US Airways.”
Recently, US Airways and American sealed an $11 billion merger to become the world’s biggest airline. In 2012, US Airways reported their highest annual profit in company history. US Airways’ CEO Doug Parker received a 44 percent increase in compensation to $5.5 million in 2012.
“While US Air CEO Doug Parker makes $2,600 an hour, many airport workers struggle on as little as $7.00 per hour. The airport expansion will mean even more profit for US Airways, but unless City Council acts now, the wealth generated by the airport will fail to trickle down to the 2,000 workers making poverty wages at PHL,” said Reverend Melanie Dubhouse of faith coalition, Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER).
The march comes less than a month after airport workers raised concerns about the adequacy of health and safety precautions used by passenger service subcontractors at the Philadelphia International Airport. As the investigation into these claims continues, workers are intensifying their efforts to raise wages and standards at the airport.
Current language in the US Airways lease with the city exempts subcontracted airport workers from the city’s 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard. Tomorrow, advocates and airport workers will testify at the Transportation and Public Utilities Hearing at 3:00pm on the need to include language in the lease that covers subcontracted airport workers under the existing living wage law. City Council must ratify the lease by the end of June. A final vote is expected June 13 or June 20.
With more than 125,000 members, including 10,000 in the Philadelphia area, 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.