Issued October 14, 2015
National Airports Campaign marks a milestone with first victory in so-called “Right to Work” state
(Fort Lauderdale)–Fort Lauderdale airport workers celebrated a hard-fought victory Tuesday when the Broward County Commission voted to extend the County’s Living Wage Ordinance —which sets wages at $11.68 with health benefits, $13.20 without—to include subcontracted airline workers.
The victory comes as workers from major origin and destination airports around the country, including Ft. Lauderdale Airport workers, prepare to converge in Washington, DC next week for the first-ever National Airport Worker Convention, where workers will strategize and develop a coordinated national plan of action to raise standards across airports.
“This is a great day in Broward County,” said Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness. “Today we will make things a little bit fairer for the hardworking men and women who make the airport run. But, it’s not just the worker who will benefit; the whole county wins as a result of today’s vote. When we enhance people's lives, they become better employees. Turnover is less and the studies shows that. Service is better and that is crucial to our local economy,” said Holness.
This victory, which comes after years of rallies, protests and strikes, is part of a national movement to raise standards for airport workers who have seen their wages and the quality of passenger services plummet while airline fees and profits have skyrocketed as a result of outsourcing to low-bid contractors. Contracted out airport workers in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago and Fort Lauderdale have all joined the Fight for $15 and union rights so that airport jobs and services to the traveling public can improve.
Tuesday’s living wage victory brings to more than 45,000, the number of airport workers nationwide who have either received wages increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies. But this is the first victory in a “right to work” state, Florida, which ranks 4th in income inequality, and whose low-wage workforce is largely made up of immigrants and people of color. A recent study shows that unionized immigrant workers earn 17% higher wages and are 22% more likely to have health insurance.
“I can barely survive on what I earn,” said Gueldere Guerellis, a wheelchair attendant who works a second job to sustain his wife and three children. “I work round the clock and don’t sleep because I’m always worried about being evicted or if my electricity will be shut off. A living wage will finally give me peace of mind and let me spend more time with my family,” he added.
The amendment will affect 1,700 wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, security officers, cabin cleaners and other passenger service workers who currently earn an average of $8.35 an hour—with more than 83.2% of those workers relying on some form of public assistance to survive.
While they recognize and celebrate today’s victory as a milestone, the Ft. Lauderdale Airport workers and their community supporters are committed to continue to fight for access to health insurance, paid sick days, union rights, as well as a statewide $15 minimum wage.
At the convention next week in Washington, they will discuss a federal agenda for a national solution to the security and poverty wage crisis at airports around the country. They will also visit Congress to ask their representatives to take measures ensuring that federal investment in airports is tied to responsible contracting policies.
Airport workers from Europe and Australia, worker leaders from the Fight for $15 movement, and several elected officials will be joining the conference as well. Together, the airport workers are committing to do whatever it takes, including direct action and strikes, to reach their goal of $15 and union rights.
Airport workers across the country are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies, raising their voices for $15 and union rights to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. By sticking together, speaking out for change, and even going on strike, these workers they have won wage increases for airport workers in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and now Fort Lauderdale. Today, more than 45,000 airport workers nationwide have either received wages increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies.