MIA Airport Workers to Strike Just Before July 4th Weekend

Ana Tinsly (646) 331-4765 amtinsly@seiu32bj.org

MIA Airport Workers to Strike Just Before July 4th Weekend

Baggage handlers, Skycaps, and Ramp agents, employed by Ultra Aviation, an airline subcontractor for international airlines, to walk off job for 24 hours

Workers say they’re being underpaid, enrolled in fake health insurance plans

WHAT: Rally to support striking airport workers at Miami International Airport.
WHO: Baggage handlers, skycaps, customer service agents, wheelchair attendants and other airport workers, employed by airline contractor Ultra Aviation, who say they are being underpaid, while being enrolled into fake health insurance plans. **Spanish speakers available**
WHEN: Thursday, July 29, 1:30pm
WHERE: Miami International Airport (Departures Level)
The park across the street from Terminal E, Door 12
VISUALS: Airport workers and community supporters holding signs, chanting

(Miami, FL) Just before the busy July 4th weekend, Miami Airport workers employed by Ultra Aviation, an airline subcontractor for Avianca, LATAM, Air France, and other international airlines, will walk off the job for 24 hours starting Thursday, July 29 at 12noon. Faith leaders, community supporters and airport workers will hold a rally the same day at 1:30pm at the Miami International Airport (Departures Level), at the park across the street from Terminal E, Door 12.

The baggage handlers, skycaps, ramp agents and others are saying Ultra is violating Miami Dade County’s Living Wage Ordinance and enrolling them into fake health insurance plans, while underpaying them potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. Workers also say they have been subject to surveillance and retaliation over their union organizing efforts.

“I went to the emergency room because I was vomiting and feeling very sick. I thought I was covered by my insurance,” said Javier Vivo, a customer service agent. “Later I received bills for more than $4,000 and it turns out that the insurance doesn’t even cover it. This whole time I’ve been earning about two dollars less an hour because I was supposedly covered. I could have saved that money to pay for the hospital visit myself.”

Companies operating at the airport are covered under Miami-Dade County’s Living Wage Ordinance, which sets wages at $12.63 an hour with qualifying health benefits and $15.52 without. Unfortunately, Ultra’s health plan does not meet county standards. Their plan is not actually health insurance, but a cash benefit plan that pays a fixed amount of money per procedure, lab test, or prescription. According to a complaint filed with the County in April, Ultra’s plan will pay a maximum of $250 per emergency room visit; $300 maximum per night in intensive care; and a maximum of $30 for brand name drugs per pharmacy visit.

This past April, Ultra workers more than 70 complaints with the Miami Dade County Aviation Department. It is estimated that more than 350 part-time employees have been affected. Ultra could be forced to pay back hundreds and thousands in back wages and pay fines of $500 per person per week that the employees were underpaid—totaling potentially several millions of dollars. The County Aviation Department has allowed Ultra to delay the investigation, granting them a 30-day extension to turn in requested payroll records of the underpaid workers.

“The Living Wage law protects thousands of workers at the airport. But, what good is it if it’s not enforced?” said Helene O’Brien, Florida Director for SEIU 32BJ. “The County must hold bad corporate players like Ultra accountable. Otherwise it sends a clear message to other contractors that they can underpay workers and give them fake health insurance plans.

“We have a choice. Miami International Airport can either be an economic engine that generates thousands of good jobs, or it can be a cesspool of law breakers that mistreat their workers. We trust that the Mayor and County Commissioners will do what’s right to raise standards at the airport,” added O’Brien.

For live updates follow #MIAStrike on Twitter at @32bjflorida and @32BJ SEIU on Facebook and Instagram.

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With more than 163,000 members in nine states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service worker’s union in the country. 32BJ is part of Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies, raising their voices for living wages and union rights to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. By sticking together, speaking out for change, and going on strike, these workers have won wage increases in Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, and Philadelphia. Today, more than 70,000 workers nationwide have either received wages increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies as a result of the workers’ campaign.

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