10-11:30 AM on Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Broward County Commission hearing: 115 South Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL
Fort Lauderdale, FL—Airline-contracted wheelchair attendants, who went on strike over poverty wages and federal labor law violations at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, will deliver letters on Tuesday, asking Broward County Commissioners how to access the County’s Living Wage. Over 1,200 passenger service workers continue to earn an average of $8.14 per hour, significantly below both the County’s Living Wage and the federal poverty line, despite a bill introduced in May to close a loophole in the ordinance that excludes these contracted workers.
At the hearing, Commissioners will discuss extending Eulen America’s lease for space at FLL, despite the airline contractor’s upcoming trial over federal labor charges alleging the company fired a worker for trying to organize a union. Workers will urge Commissioners to add legal protections to the lease ensuring they are paid a living wage if the Commission passes the bill into law. The lease fails to provide any legal protections for workers, but does protect the contractor, which services several airlines, including American and Delta.
“We are grateful for the support Commissioners have provided over the last two years, but we can’t afford to wait any longer for a living wage,” said Theotis Pressley, a wheelchair attendant at FLL. “We still can’t pay bills or feed our families, so we ask that you make good on your promise before you leave for the summer.”
Wheelchair attendants recently went on strike to protest poverty wages and unfair labor practices by their employer, G2 Secure Staff, which services Southwest and Virgin America Airlines. The National Labor Relations Board recently found enough probable cause to issue a complaint against G2 for violating the National Labor Relations Act by suspending workers for exercising their rights to collective action and by unlawfully enforcing rules in the workplace to discourage union activity.
Because G2’s wheelchair attendants earn as little $8.05, plus tips, and without any meaningful benefits, many must work multiple jobs and rely on public assistance to survive. In contrast, other workers at FLL who are covered by the Broward Living Wage law earn up to $13.20 and G2 counterparts at Miami International Airport, who are covered by the Miami-Dade living wage law, earn as much as $14.27 per hour.
A higher percentage of workers at FLL (29%) have to rely on public assistance than those at MIA (18%). FLL experiences significantly higher turnover among workers than MIA. High turnover rates are often due to poverty wages, resulting in a workforce that is inexperienced, and that may not be familiar with critical airport safety procedures.
As airlines make record-breaking profits (as much as $2.8 billion per year), and take advantage of FLL’s cheap costs (one of the lowest in the nation), Broward taxpayers pay airlines an indirect subsidy because their poverty wages leave workers reliant on public assistance. Closing the Living Wage loophole would inject an estimated additional $14 million per year into Broward’s economy and communities.
With more than 145,000 members in 11 states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.