Airport workers rally for fair wages

Airport workers rally for fair wages
Charles Mostoller

On a day when thousands of subcontracted airport workers across the country disrupted airport operations in the name of fair living wages, Mayor Jim Kenney managed to keep the peace at PHL by agreeing to back them up in their endeavor.

About 200 airport service workers and fellow supporters at Philadelphia International Airport Monday marched in near-Arctic temperatures from Terminal F to Terminal B in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington.

“Unlike many of their counterparts across the country, Philadelphia’s subcontracted airport workers did not engage in civil disobedience at PHL today,” Kenney said in a statement.

“They know we are committed to resolving the subcontracting crisis at the airport and helping them work with dignity. In the coming weeks, I will be bringing together airport stakeholders to reach an agreement that benefits these workers and helps them ensure that our airport is a world-class facility.”

Gabe Morgan, vice president of 32BJ SEIU and the rally’s emcee, said that the cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants and baggage handlers who work at the airport for wages as low as $12 are being treated unfairly by third-party companies who hire them to do the work.

“All across this country today, thousands of contracted airport workers from Boston to New York to New Jersey to Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to Chicago to Portland and beyond are standing together and fighting for justice. Here at this airport, 2,000 workers working for companies like Prime Flight, who have had their footon the necks of workers, who have kept these workers in poverty as they’ve worked here for years, these workers have gathered here together and they’ve been winning,” he said.

Onetha McKnight has worked at Philadelphia International Airport for nine years as a wheelchair attendant.

“In 2014 and 2015 we fought and won a minimum wage increase to $12 an hour,” she said.

“Unfortunately, some workers at this airport received that $12 an hour, but as a wheelchair attendant, I have not, but I still continue to fight.”

Congressman Chaka Fattah stood with the airport workers and vowed in Harrisburg to buck any appropriations for the airport unless it paid its workers more.

“These are public facilities. This airport is owned by the taxpayers of Philadelphia,” he said.

“As your Congressman, I can tell you this – I’m not going to be fighting for appropriations for this airport unless they’re going to be paying people a decent wage.”

Diane Gerace, an airport spokesperson, said there were no impacts to airport operations during Monday’s rally.