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Workers at 15 US airports join pre-Thanksgiving Day nationwide fast for $15 and union rights
According to a University of California-Berkeley Labour Centre report detailing the stunning rise of poverty jobs at US airports, 37% of cleaning and baggage workers live in or near the poverty level.
Ahead of the busiest travel day of the year with US citizens trying to make it home for Thanksgiving Day, members of the Service Employees National Union - including those that clean the airport terminals and aircraft, embarked on a 24-hour fast.
The fast comes days after thousands of contract airport workers at the seven busiest US hubs went on strike to improve conditions. Elected officials along with community and clergy leaders joined the picket lines and lent their support, outraged at the sweatshop-like conditions and poverty wages all too common at US airports.
A statement issued by the Union said: "At a time when most Americans celebrate and are grateful for bounty, the men and women who keep our airports running are fasting for $15 and union rights to draw attention to the fact that airport workers often go hungry because they are paid so little they can't make ends meet. Those fasting are also shining the spotlight on the intimidation, harassment and retaliation tactics these workers encounter from their employers when they attempt to form unions to improve their livelihoods.
"Airport jobs used to be good jobs but the airline industry is driving down wages and quality of service by outsourcing jobs - often to irresponsible contractors. This low-road business model has resulted in a system where bottom-feeder contractors have taken over the market, and intimidation and harassment are now routine for these hardworking men and women who play a critical role in keeping passengers safe."
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to the workers last month, expressing her support for their efforts. "I'm proud to support you in calling for safe working conditions, decent benefits and fair wages for every airport worker in the country. Airport jobs should be good jobs and together, we can make sure they are."
Across the country, contracted airport staff are coming together through Airport Workers United, a movement of employees and their allies, raising their voices for $15 and union rights to make the airports safe and secure for passengers, staff and the local communities. Personnel in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Denver, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Newark, N.J., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, are participating in the fast.
The protestors have already won wage increases in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, N.J., Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Meaning that more than 53,000 of these workers nationwide have either received wage increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies.
26th November 2015