Washington, D.C. – The National Labor Relations Board has issued a Complaint charging Airport Terminal Services, a contractor at Reagan National Airport (DCA) for 16 alleged violations that include interrogation and threats to terminate ramp workers, cabin cleaners and workers who provide lavatory and water servicing for aircrafts. The workers, who earn as little as $9.50 an hour were part of a nationwide strike in April, protesting alleged unlawful treatment by their employer, ATS.
“I see my coworkers disrespected daily – management threatens them with being fired and tries to confuse them about their rights, said Bryan Bryant,” who works at DCA as a cabin cleaner for ATS.
By providing low wages, ATS is part of a bottom-feeder contracting system that has caused airports to become a locus of low-wages, exploitation, unfairness and inequality instead of economic drivers and generators of good jobs. DCA’s contracted airport service workers are excluded from the airport’s living wage law. They are part of the growing group of airline-contracted wheelchair attendants, skycaps, baggage handlers, checkpoint agents and cabin cleaners who have joined the nationwide fight for $15 an hour and union rights for every airport worker so they can provide for their families and better care for the hundreds of millions of passengers who rely on them to travel safely.
“It’s unacceptable for companies to act above the law and make life difficult for low-wage workers who keep travelers safe and our airport running smooth,” said Jaime Contreras, a 32BJ SEIU Vice President.
In May, ATS workers and clergy flew from Washington, D.C to confront St. Louis-based Airport Terminal Services Inc. President, Sally Leible to demand that she help put an end to what they believed was mistreatment and unjust working conditions by her company at Reagan National Airport. Despite this effort, rampant abuse continues, prompting workers and the union to file federal charges. A trial is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, October 12, 2016.
Airport service workers have received support from numerous high-level leaders including presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer as well as Actor and anti-poverty activist, Danny Glover. In June, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez walked through DCA with the workers who demonstrated how they keep the airport safe, clean and running smooth, but face concerns over safety and job security. Perez also heard their stories of struggle to make ends meet on poverty wages, while enduring bullying and intimidation from their employers after organizing for a voice on the job.
By sticking together, speaking out for change, fasting and going on strike, they have won wage increases in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale. More than 70,000 airport workers nationwide have either received wage increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies.
With more than 155,000 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.