Laura Moran

Issued March 21, 2022

Airport Workers in 20+ Cities Take Demands to Top US Airline CEOs, Hold National Day of Action

Contracted workers take demands directly to CEOs of American Airlines, Delta, United for living wages, union rights, racial equity in headquarters actions


New analysis finds Black, Latino, API contracted airport workers make up to 40% less than white peers on average

NATIONWIDE — Contracted airport workers will hold a national day of action in more than 20 cities on March 30, gathering at airport terminals and airlines’ corporate headquarters to demand good jobs that pay a living wage, provide vital benefits and have a voice on the job through a union. Workers will hold actions in Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, Los Angeles, Newark, New York, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, Washington, D.C and more. They will also demand solutions to deep racial inequities impacting a largely Black, Latino, API and immigrant workforce.

Amid a national uprising that has seen essential workers across industries fed up and demanding change, hundreds of airport workers across the country will come together to signify the next wave of workers demanding recognition of their worth. The workers, who are organizing with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Airport Workers United, play numerous vital roles that keep airports running and include baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitorial workers and wheelchair assistants.

“Airports keep our economy and our world connected. I assist disabled, elderly and other passengers, who need help getting through the airport to their plane,” said Omer Hussein, a wheelchair attendant servicing American Airlines at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. “I’m only paid $12 an hour. I work a lot of hours and some days I work so late that I just sleep over at the airport. I can’t afford a car, rent and to send money home to my family in Sudan. I like working with passengers, but I’m so tired all the time. That won’t fly any longer. Now, airport workers like me are fed up and taking action to demand that all airport jobs must be good, union jobs that pay enough to support our families.”

Workers are set to show up at every single American Airlines hub on March 30, including Dallas, Charlotte and Phoenix where they will launch new organizing drives, marking a major expansion in Airport Workers United’s organizing in the South and Southwest regions. In addition to actions at airports around the country, workers will hold demonstrations in Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas, gathering outside the headquarters of Delta, United, and American Airlines, respectively, to take their demands directly to the companies’ executives.

Since Airport Workers United launched in 2015, 152,000 airport workers have won raises and job improvements. More than 35,000 contracted airport workers have won their union with SEIU and the right to bargain collectively for higher wages, better benefits, protections on the job and a brighter future for their families. Workers in Charlotte, Phoenix and places like Dallas-Fort Worth are demanding that same opportunity to bargain for better jobs.

“Amid a national reckoning and wave of workers exercising their power, airport workers are building on years of organizing and asserting themselves as the newest force in the surging labor movement,” said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International President. “They’re standing up to airline CEOs, raising their voices to demand respect, protections and pay that they can raise a family on. They’re fed up with a system where Black and brown workers make tens of thousands of dollars less than their white peers, and they’re taking action. Airlines have long proven they can’t be trusted to use the billions of public dollars they receive to serve the public good, which is why on March 30 the workers who keep them flying will show up, speak out and demand more.”

New Data Show Deep Racial Inequities in Contracted Airport Worker Pay

New data show what workers have long said: Airlines have precipitated a crisis of racial inequity. With the announcement of workers taking action, SEIU is releasing new data that exposes egregious racial inequities in contracted airport jobs. A significant majority of contracted airport workers in critical jobs – including wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers, vehicle and equipment cleaners, and cargo freight agents – are people of color, and on average these Black, Latino, and API workers are paid up to 40% less than what their white peers are making.

The data reveal that contracted airport service workers, such as janitors, wheelchair agents, cabin cleaners, ramp workers and fuelers, are 64% people of color and make substantially less — 42% less on average — than air transportation industry workers overall. The disparities are even more shocking for Black and Latino contracted airport workers. Black contracted, airport service workers make 40% less on average than their white coworkers in the same job category, about $18,000 annually. Latino contracted, airport service workers make 35% less on average than their co-workers, about $16,000 annually.

As major airlines have been quick to pay lip service to demands for racial justice in recent years, contracted airline workers are demanding CEOs take real action and pledge to improve airport jobs for all workers across race and background.

Workers Confront Airline Leadership with Good Jobs Demand

Workers’ action at American Airlines Dallas headquarters comes just one day before outgoing CEO Doug Parker retires and incoming CEO Robert Isom takes the reins. Standing together on March 30, workers nationwide will push Isom to champion a new era for the company in which all airport jobs are good jobs and all airport workers are valued for their essential contributions.

In the home base of each of the largest airlines, contracted airport workers will call on the CEOs of American Airlines, Delta and United each to sign the “Good Airports Pledge” committing to take responsibility for all workers, including contractors, throughout their networks and ensuring good jobs, benefits and union rights for all.

By signing the Good Airports Pledge, each CEO will commit to:

For decades, as airlines have consolidated into larger corporations, they have squeezed workers by contracting out essential jobs to a broad array of smaller companies in an attempt to dodge accountability for the workers who keep their systems running. At the same time, they’ve accepted billions in public dollars and operate out of airports that receive public funds — all while decreasing quality of service for travelers across the country.