Airport workers at 7 U.S. hubs to strike Wednesday night
By Luz Lazo November 18 at 2:57 PM
Robin Wilson leads chanting as airport workers and supporters from around the world rally for better wages in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport last month.. Workers in DC are the latest to join a national campaign for better wages for contracting workers at airports across the world. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
This post has been updated.
Airport workers at seven of the busiest U.S. airports are going on strike Wednesday night to protest what they say are poor working conditions and retaliation for unionizing.
More than 2,000 workers, including cleaners, wheelchair attendants, and baggage handlers plan to strike at Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty and New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, the Service Employees International Union said.
It’s unclear how the action might impact operations. We’re checking with airports and will update this post as soon as we hear back.
The walkout is part of a growing national campaign for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for the lowest-paid airport workers who keep terminals and plane cabins clean, move bags and transport people with disabilities. They work for contractors that serve all major airlines, and some of them are making hourly salaries as low as $6.75, union leaders say.
“Despite working fulltime, they cannot afford to rent a room for themselves let alone take care of their families,” said Marc Goumbri, an SEIU spokesman with the workers campaign. “The workers have a right to get together under federal law and fight for better working conditions, but when they do so they face retaliation from the contractors.”
[Washington-area airport workers join fight for $15-an-hour minimum wage]
It is unclear how the strike, expected to start around 7:30 p.m. and extend until Thursday, will impact airport operations. It comes, however, just days before one of the busiest air travel weeks. As many as 3.6 million Americans are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA estimates.
Greg Meyer, an spokesman for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, said any actions Wednesday night are not likely to significantly impact service, noting that business is slow at night.
“This is not going to shut down the airport,” he said. “This is not going to cause the airlines to stop flying.”
When workers have gone on strike in the past it has impacted services such as wheelchair assistance and those handling bags at the curb. But he said, “the airlines bring in additional employees and they take over those responsibilities. You still have folks that are disabled that need assistance getting from the curb to the gate so the service has to be provided.”
Solidarity actions are also planned for Thursday in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore. In Washington, airport workers will join several members of Congress at a morning news conference in support of the $15 hourly wage.
Once contracted directly with airlines or airports, most of these service jobs are now outsourced to companies that compete for the contracts. Some studies suggest that the growing trend has led to poorer working conditions and lower wages.
Airport workers across the U.S. have held protests, marches and rallies over the past three years, calling for better pay and benefits. Some workers say the low wages force them to work two or three jobs to sustain their families.Tags: US airport workersSEIU
Newhouse pushes anti-labor longshore bill to counter port slowdowns
Columbia Basin Herald
Friday, November 13, 2015
WASHINGTON — Rep. Dan Newhouse has proposed federal legislation that would put in place new economic safeguards to prevent future slowdowns at ports.
The Yakima Valley Republican, along with Rep. Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat, introduced the Ensuring Continued Operations and No Other Major Incidents, Closures, or Slowdowns Act in a news conference.
The act stems from prolonged contract negotiations from May 2014 through February 2015 between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The negotiations bogged down day-to-day operations at 29 ports along the West Coast. Agricultural producers, retailers, manufactures and other businesses suffered from the slowdown and were unable to transport their respective products. The slowdown caused billions of dollars in damages, impacted thousands of jobs and caused market share to be lost to foreign competitors.
“We must take the lesson of the most recent ports slowdown to heart: that two parties cannot hold hostage the nation’s economy,” Newhouse said. “Under the status quo, the national economy, which depends on a stable supply chain, is subject to the threat of ongoing disruptive activity at our ports. This legislation will create an impetus to act to resolve disputes before they drag on for months with catastrophic effects.”
Currently, the president has the emergency authority to appoint a board to recommend whether judicial interference should be pursued in a labor dispute. Newhouse’s bill would create specific “triggers” under which a board of inquiry must be convened.
The triggers include:
• When a labor dispute occurs at four or more port facilities.
• When the number of affected employees at ports totals 6,000 or more.
• When U.S. imports and exports drop 20 percent or more in one month.
The act also would direct the secretary of transportation to divide the nation’s maritime ports geographically into four identification regions: West Coast, East Coast, Gulf Coast and Great Lakes.