BOSTON 3/31/2016 — Logan terminal cleaners employed by Lima went on strike last night and rallied at the Blue Line Airport MBTA stop this morning, in protest of their employer’s labor practices and conditions. They joined workers at nine other airports around the country who also engaged in rallies, protests and strikes for a better, safer workplace.
Last week U.S. airport workers postponed their joint actions and instead held vigils to honor the victims of the Brussels attacks, and to salute the actions of baggage handler Alphones Lyoura, who pulled seven people to safety afterward. The action today included strikes at Sea-Tac (Seattle), O’Hare, John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark, Philadelphia, Reagan National, and Fort Lauderdale, and a rally at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). At JFK, the strike included workers at Roma Cleaning, which is affiliated with Lima.
The attack on Brussels’ Zaventem airport and a 2013 shooting at LAX both show airport service workers—including baggage handlers, passenger service agents, wheel chair assistants, security officers and others—are the very first responders in emergencies. Worker and their allies made clear at the rallies and strikes that workers deserve investment in emergency response training, as well as a fair wage and decent benefits. Last year alone, airlines raked in more than $23 billion in profits while many airport workers continue to live in abject poverty.
“The work we do is very hard, but the pay we receive is very little,” said Jackson Calderon, a striking Lima cleaner. “I share an apartment with my family and it’s difficult for me pay my share of the $2,000 rent and bills, and provide for food and transportation. I also have a four-year-old daughter back in my country, but I can’t afford to bring her to live with me in the U.S.”
Calderon and other Lima workers clean JetBlue offices, and they struck in protest of an unfair labor practice they have alleged, in which in which a manager told a worker that she would be fired if she engaged in legally protected organizing activity.
“The strike today highlights one example of a problem that occurs again and again, in airport after airport, all across the country,” said Roxana Rivera, Vice-President of 32BJ District 615, whose members came out to stand in support of strikers. “Workers are treated poorly, face unsafe conditions, and receive inadequate pay in an industry that has seen its profits soar. As the tragedy in Belgium reminds us, these workers are on the frontline. They are asking contractors and the airlines that hire them for working conditions and compensation that shows workers the respect they deserve. It’s not only the right thing to do for them, it’s the right thing for the security of everyone at our nation’s airports.”
Airport workers made history last November with the first-ever national airport strikes when thousands of workers walked off the job at seven of the country’s busiest hubs to shine a spotlight on the subpar conditions they’re subjected to. The workers also embarked on a nationwide Thanksgiving fast, which brought national attention to the crisis at our airports. Earlier this year, dozens of airport workers and supporters were arrested across the country as they engaged in civil disobedience to honor the legacy of Dr. King by protesting the gross injustices and inequality that persist at our nation’s airports.
With 145,000 members in 11 states — including nearly 18,000 members in Massachusetts —32BJ is the largest property service union in the country.
Around the country, contracted airport workers 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 going on strike, these workers have won wage increases in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale. Today, more than 70,000 workers nationwide have either received wages increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies as a result of the workers’ campaign.