Airport Service Workers Are on Strike
Hundreds of demonstrators assembled outside Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday afternoon to demand higher wages and benefits for airport workers.
Last week, more than 400 workers voted to walk off the job during the Democratic National Convention, which will take place from July 25th through 28th. The group of baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners, and other employees are demanding, in addition to higher wages, more efficient scheduling, a better disciplinary and sick pay system, and the ability to unionize.
Tuesday’s protest is a preview of what’s to come during the DNC, said Julie Blust, a spokeswoman for the mid-Atlantic arm of SEIU 32BJ, a union that has been trying to organize the airport workers. The union says that this strike was spurred on by actions that the union says three subcontractors — PrimeFlight, Prospect Airport Services and McGinn Security — have taken against workers.
According to SEIU 32BJ, the subcontractors have threatened to suspend workers who join Tuesday’s strike and those who plan to strike during the DNC, violating their right to organize. The union also objects to what it says are efforts to pay workers more temporarily to keep them from walking off the job. PrimeFlight appears to have organized a “DNC Challenge” for workers that will allow them to get gift cards for actions like perfect attendance and uniform compliance from July 17th through July 31st.
“Now they’re just throwing money at workers to get them to stay during the DNC instead of dealing with the demands,” said Blust. “All three of the subcontractors have been behaving despicably, but the workers so far are undeterred.” The union says it has already filed unfair labor practice charges against the subcontractors in response to the past week’s events.
None of the subcontractors replied immediately to requests for comment.
Airport workers were joined on Tuesday by community supporters, elected officials, members of the interfaith group P.O.W.E.R, and SEIU 32BJ members from out of town.
— 32BJ SEIU (@32BJSEIU) July 19, 2016
— Senator Hughes (@SenatorHughes) July 19, 2016
— Sam Williamson (@Sam_Williamson) July 19, 2016
Last week, Mayor Kenney sided with the workers’ mission to receive a fair wage and the ability to unionize without interference from their employers.
SEIU 32BJ has said that the workers received a wage increase to $12 per hour because of past protests, but according to the union, some of the workers didn’t begin receiving this higher rate until this month.
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