Issued May 15, 2024

Mary Kay Henry: SEIU Members Celebrate Historic Inclusion of Service Workers in Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization

Passage marks first time in history that FAA legislation has included measures to support the majority Black, brown, and immigrant airport service workforce

SEIU represents more than 40,000 airport service workers, as thousands more organize to demand good union jobs across major hubs

WASHINGTON, DC – Mary Kay Henry, International President of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement after the final passage of the FAA Reauthorization package:

“Today marks a historic moment for the majority Black, brown, and immigrant-powered airport service workforce that keeps our airports running nationwide. For the first time, our nation’s 300,000 airport service workers are rightly recognized as real stakeholders in an FAA Reauthorization package, which includes important language that acknowledges and empowers these long-overlooked workers.

Congress and the Biden Administration have taken commendable steps toward strengthening U.S. air travel by including a provision that evaluates the critical and underappreciated role that airport service workers play in the aviation industry. By creating a table that includes essential airport service workers, aviation employers, and the Department of Transportation, we can work towards tackling complicated workforce issues and recommend fixes to the overlapping crises facing our airports. That includes putting an end to poverty wages and ensuring the affordable healthcare, paid sick leave, and workplace protections workers have long demanded.

The law requires the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to complete a comprehensive review of the domestic service workforce and examine the crucial role and importance of these workers to the aviation economy. Also included in the package are provisions addressing airport ramp worker safety, as well as those requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to undertake rulemaking on several groundbreaking measures that will facilitate improved training standards for workers who assist passengers with disabilities and promote equitable access for anyone who uses a wheelchair while flying.

Airport service workers have long served as the lifeblood of the aviation economy, operating largely behind the scenes to make air travel possible by cleaning planes, hauling baggage, escorting passengers, securing our airports, and more. They’re often doing essential work in extreme heat or during chaotic periods of holiday travel, even as they’re too often forced to contend with low wages, no healthcare, no sick days, and few protections. Yet, despite the frontline roles they play in every single airport, service workers have never been included in an FAA reauthorization package.

For years, airport service workers have demanded Congress write them into FAA reauthorization. They have spoken out, taken to the streets, organized their communities, and even taken arrest in peaceful protest, refusing to take no for an answer. They’ve stood arm in arm with fellow workers across the aviation sector and the economy, from flight attendants and pilots to baristas, healthcare workers, fast-food cooks and cashiers, and more to demand good jobs for good airports.

Thank you to Senator Markey and Representative García for incredible leadership and to Majority Leader Schumer, Leader Jeffries, Chair Cantwell, and Ranking Member Larsen for their vital work to advance Good Jobs for Good Airports and make sure every job within an airport is a good union job. While this FAA Reauthorization package takes important steps forward, there’s more work ahead. These fired-up workers have waited long enough for good jobs – and they won’t back down until airlines, aviation employers, and elected leaders ensure that blue-collar airport service workers get the respect, protections, and fair wages and benefits they need to thrive.”