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Virginia’s Blue Tide Raises Profile of Contracted Airport Workers’ Fight for $15


December 3, 2019

Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (HD-31) and 16 Delegates have signed a letter urging the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority to ensure contracted workers at Reagan National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport reach $15 per hour by 2023. Their $12.15 hourly wages are far lower than D.C.’s $15 minimum wage and many East Coast airports, where workers already earn $15 or more. On December 18, MWAA board members will hold a vote to determine wages for over 6,000 immigrant contracted baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, skycaps and cabin cleaners among others.

The letter reads: “As you deliberate an extension of your wage policy, we strongly urge you to ensure that all airport workers receive an hourly wage of at least $15 by 2023. We believe that this wage level is critical to improving public safety and to maintaining the robust economic benefits that airports provide to our state. MWAA’s current policy has already had a significant impact on decreasing employee turnover. However, turnover levels remain unacceptably high. For example, at the DCA airline-catering kitchen, almost 87 percent of the turnover in 2018 was from employees making below $15 an hour.

As the cost of living in Virginia and the D.C. metro area continues to rise, a wage increase policy that does not recognize the fact that these airport workers are barely surviving at the margins means that they will be left even further behind. The minimum wage in D.C. will move to $15 per hour in 2020, and many airports along the East Coast already have a minimum wage above $15 per hour. We urge you to move in the same direction quickly. ”

“I am alone to pay for bills, clothes, food, medicine and surgeries for my sick mother and my son,” said ramp agent, Joyce Wood, a single mother with epilepsy, caring for a son with special needs and a mother suffering from epilepsy and congestive heart failure. “A wage increase would help us immensely and we deserve it.”

“I work two jobs which is causing me many health problems. We are asking MWAA to understand our problems and help us live as human beings I can’t pay the bills and support my family, said” Tadesse Boru, a ramp ambassador at Dulles who’s the sole provider supporting six kids and his wife who’s too sick to work.

32BJ SEIU led a month-long GOTV effort by team of over a dozen union member volunteers who knocked on doors in key races. A dozen 32BJ SEIU janitors and security officers, spent all-day, nearly every day knocking on hundreds of doors per week leading up to Election Day, engaging approximately 12,000 voters.

“Workers played an important role as our eyes and ears during multiple safety scares at airports,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President, Jaime Contreras. “A higher minimum wage is key to decreasing turnover and creating a more stable workforce to protect the public.

Contracted workers at DCA and Dulles have received support from numerous high-level leaders. Among the supporters are DNC Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Virginia Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer, D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Virginia Delegates Alphonso Lopez and Jennifer Boysko as well as Actor and anti-poverty activist, Danny Glover.


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