Edson Jocelyn continued working for Superior Aircraft Services at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport despite continuing problems that he and co-workers experience working there because they wanted to fix the problems and turn their poverty-wage jobs into good jobs.
But Jocelyn said Superior pushed him to the end of his rope two weeks ago when the contractor fired him and another wheelchair attendant, Youvens Dervil, for trumped up reasons. Yesterday the two workers brought a National Labor Relations Board charge against Superior. And today Community leaders, including Broward County Commissioner Martin David Kiar, joined airport workers at a press conference calling on Superior to rescind the firings and give Jocelyn and Dervil their jobs back.
“These are good human beings who do nothing but what’s right for our community, who just want to make a difference,” Kiar said. “So I’m calling on Superior, this is Broward County. It is a progressive county. You do a lot of business here. I want you to treat our South Florida residents with the respect that they deserve.”
Jocelyn said improving working conditions at the airport has been a concern of his since he started there seven years, which led him to write an article on the Opinion-Editorial page of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel last fall. Superior managers, he said, began paying special attention to him after the article appeared, telling co-workers they saw talking to him not to talk to him.
Jocelyn and Dervil continued to be outspoken among their co-workers in their efforts to improve conditions working for Superior employees at the airport. For instance, when Broward Mayor Kristin Jacobs, made a fact-finding visit to the airport on February 18 to confirm for herself what she had been hearing about poor working conditions there, Edson and Youvens were two of the workers who showed her around.
Most Passenger service workers at the airport, employed by contractors hired by airlines, earn the state minimum wage, $7.79 or $4.77, if they are tipped workers. The workers say it is hard to live on those wages, especially considering health care plans offered by the contractors are often unaffordable. They say they often lose the day’s pay if they are sick and have to stay home because many airport employers do not offer paid sick days. They also complain of capricious scheduling by supervisors which lead to them not getting enough work hours.
The Rev. Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale came out to support the workers on behalf of the Executive Committee of Interfaith Worker Justice came to the press conference to call on Superior to reinstate the workers.
They should not be silenced for trying to improve working conditions and raising the standards, she said.
“It is immoral to fire workers for trying to improve conditions. I call on Superior to reinstate these two brave workers and treat them with respect,” Tapscott said. “It’s only right that we have high standards that include respect, fair wages and benefits for all workers. People who do the hardest jobs in this country get paid the least and there’s something terribly, terribly wrong with that.”
With more than 125,000 members, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service union in the country.