Low-wage workers on the frontlines of COVD demand protection from Congress
Washington, D.C. – The airlines’ lobbying group, Airlines for America (A4A) has told Congress that they are seeking the bailout to avoid layoffs, but meanwhile thousands of contracted airport workers have been laid off. Layoffs at Washington’s Reagan National and Dulles International Airports will reach over 500 by April 1 and those who are already jobless are in dire circumstances:
Sahr Kofuma was laid off from his job as a cleaner and a security officer at the Dulles. “Our livelihoods are at stake but the airlines are only trying to protect themselves and not considering all of the workers who make the airports run! Without financial help, we cannot pay our bills. People cannot afford to buy enough food for their families and have families back home that depend on us for financial support. Financial assistance, paid time off and sick leave would help keep us safe in these hard times.”
Parya Shasti was laid off from her job as a customer service agent and security agent at Dulles. “I’m going through difficulties since I have no other means of income to cover my mortgage and support my son. Without employment, what am I to do? I worked hard to keep the airport safe and helped passengers at Dulles with anything they needed. Now it is us airport workers who are in need of help.”
Genzeb Woldensenbet is a mother of two who was laid off from her job as checkpoint agent at DCA. “How can I feed my kids and my family? I don’t know what to do, I am so scared for my kids’ and family’s future.
While the airlines have stated they want to “secure financial assistance from the federal government to protect and preserve the 750,000 jobs of hardworking men and women who are directly employed by U.S. airlines, as well the 10 million jobs supported by the airline industry,” they have allowed thousands of contracted airline workers—baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, and more—to lose their jobs with no compensation.
The bailout proposal from the airlines contains no provisions to protect these most vulnerable contracted workers who have been on the front lines of this crisis for weeks. As the airlines continue to lobby Congress to secure their bailout, thousands of low-wage workers, mostly men and women of color, are being thrown out on the street.
“It’s not just corporations that need support, it’s contracted workers who are actually the ones on the front lines and lack both health and financial protections,” said Jaime Contreras, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU. “There’s no reason basic protections for contracted airport workers shouldn’t be included and we are going to keep pushing for that.
“32BJ SEIU contracted are on the frontlines of the day-to-day airport operations. They care for our elderly and disabled, they move our baggage, they clean planes from national and international destinations, and they interact with hundreds of thousands of passengers from around the world. They are the most at risk in the face of this global pandemic, and they are the least who can afford to lose wages and benefits during this time of crisis.
“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.
“Right now the airlines are asking the government for a $60 billion bailout, while contracted airport workers are given nothing. They live paycheck to paycheck and many lack healthcare to even care for themselves in the face of this pandemic.”
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states, including over 20,000 in D.C. region and Baltimore, MD, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.