This afternoon, Broward County Commissioners are each receiving a flower along with profiles of working mothers and cards that read: “As you celebrate Mother’s Day, please consider the mothers who work tirelessly to assist passengers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and keep FLL running smooth. All we want for Mother’s Day is to be better able to provide for our families. We hope that you will keep mothers’ best interests to heart this session.”
Over 1,500 airline-contracted workers at FLL struggle on as little as $4.91 per hour if working in a “tipped” position and lack health insurance and paid sick time. FLL’s baggage handlers, sky caps, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners, ramp workers, passenger assistance representatives, check-point screeners, fuelers, and security officers are excluded from the airport’s living wage law.
Manouse Emmanuel has been a Bags-employed wheelchair attendant at FLL for 13 years and earns the state’s minimum wage of $7.93 per hour. She’s also a mother of two and a proud grandmother of twins, supporting her daughter through college with help of financial aid. Emmanuel often must endure a three-hour bus ride to reach her job but always puts others first. For example, she helped an airline customer whom suffered a heart attack while waiting to board the plane.
At $5.50 per hour, Superior-employed wheelchair attendant, Charmaine Eccleston must live with her stepmother and daughter, helping to pay rent for all three generations. Because this is her only job, Eccleston has signed up for food stamps and hasn’t been able to start paying for costly hospital bills that set her further back into debt. As a single mother, she’s now trying to put her daughter through college with the help of financial aid.
An estimated 37 percent of the families of airport cleaning and baggage workers receive Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or some combination. Nationwide, this amounts to over $110 million in spending in public assistance for airport workers and their families.
For more than two years, FLL service workers have taken to the streets and met with the Commission to try and improve industry and job standards that allow them to live with dignity.