Washington, D.C. –Nearly 200 Reagan National Airport cleaners have authorized a strike against their employer, MBS, a Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) contractor, if necessary to protest a lack of affordable health care and income that doesn’t keep up with MWAA’s living wage. The vote comes as American Airlines and 32BJ SEIU enter into last minute discussions that led to this morning’s strike suspensions at Newark, LaGuardia, JFK and Philadelphia International airports. The strike, involving thousands of airport workers employed by American Airlines’ contractors, still looms as the union, American and other stakeholders sit down to talks at 11:00 am today. While the strike is suspended as negotiations get underway, the airport workers are ready to go back on strike should talks fall apart.
“Working families are enduring enough financial pain as a result of the dysfunction in Washington,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President, Jaime Contreras. “MWAA contractors should be functioning at a higher level than Congress by being part of the solution, not the problem.”
One of the workers includes 74-year old MBS-employed terminal cleaner, Eleucadia Perez Ruiz. For the last five years she has been suffering, in need of bladder surgery, but unable to afford it. This hard-working mother had to fly to the Dominican Republic where she could afford this life-saving procedure. Life is rough enough for Eleucadia, who can only afford to share a one-bedroom apartment with four family members, including a brother she cares for suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
The strike comes in midst of several controversies facing the Airline Industry, which has renewed focus on plummeting standards in contrast to the lengths they go to save money. For years, airport workers across the country have been sounding alarms on a broken, low-bid subcontracting system—yet another cost-cutting effort by the airlines that undermines quality and standards. Meanwhile, the aviation industry is enjoying record profits, as the airlines raked in more than $23 billion in profits in 2015 alone.
MBS is based in Washington, D.C. with more than 250 terminal cleaners at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
America’s airports themselves are also a symbol of the concerted effort to erode the ability of working people to improve their jobs. President Reagan fired and permanently replaced 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981, paving the way for a decades-long march by corporations and elected officials to systematically dismantle Americans’ right to join together on the job.
With more than 163,000 members in 11 states, including 18,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.