Philadelphia Airport Workers Going on Strike

It's a 24-hour strike in coordination with airport workers across the country.

Workers at the Philadelphia International Airport have announced that they’re going on a 24-hour strike from Wednesday evening until Thursday evening. They’ll be joined by workers in Chicago, Boston, New York, Newark and Fort Lauderdale at airports that collectively serve 393 million passengers per year.

The workers are subcontractors from the 32BJ SEIU union. The group includes line queue, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners and other passenger-service workers employed by three airline service contractors—Prospect, PrimeFlight and McGinn Security. They’re protesting “low wages, poor treatment and unfair labor practices,” according to a union press release.

A union spokesperson did not know how many workers would be walking off the job, but did say that not all the workers going on strike were from the union. She also couldn’t identify specific steps the aforementioned companies — or the airports — can do to avoid a strike. She just said they’re rallying to “get respect on the job” and organize against “intimidation and retaliation” they face for speaking out.

It’s also unclear what effect the strike will have on flights arriving and departing from PHL airport — or airports nationwide. An airport spokesperson said that — since the rallying workers are employed by subcontracting companies, not the airport — the onus will be on the individual airlines to add any necessary staffing.

“If there were to be a job action, the airport will coordinate with airlines to ensure passenger convenience and smooth operations,” she said. The spokesperson didn’t speculate on whether flights will be delayed or cancelled.

Like fast-food workers, the union is fighting for a $15 per hour minimum wage and other benefits.

“While airlines across the country have been making record profits, the airport workers who make these profits possible are struggling to survive in jobs that often pay low wages, where workers are mistreated, have little to no affordable health care, and few paid days off,” a union statement said. The union also alleges that, nationwide, they’ve been faced with “intimidation tactics, unfair labor practices and in some cases the firing of outspoken workers.”

In Philadelphia, the union claims that it’s fighting against “unfair labor practices by their employers” and a failure to pay everyone the new local minimum wage of $12 per hour for contractors.

“Despite this landmark victory for some, many workers have found that poor treatment by their employers has gotten worse. And for those workers whose employer’s refuse to pay the $12 minimum wage, the frustration has reached a tipping point,” the union said.

The union released an agenda for picketing and announced that prominent Philadelphia politicians — like Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney — plan to rally with them. Here’s the schedule:

  • 11-18 10:30 p.m.-12:00 a.m. Strike kicks off
  • 11-19 6:30 a.m. Strike picket line begins at the Philadelphia International Airport on the departures side of terminals B and C.

  • 11-19 7:30 a.m. Airport workers will be rallying alongside Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., Councilman William Greenlee, Councilman Bobby Henon, Councilwoman-elect Helen Gym.

  • 11-19 12:00 p.m. A rally with Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney. That will be followed by a march to the International Plaza, where the subcontractors have offices.

More on this story as it develops.