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Workers at 15 major US airports are gearing up to picket and rally on December 8

denver airport janitors on strike
Hundreds of Denver International Airport janitors walked off the job, striking for higher pay and less taxing workload at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado on Friday, October 1, 2021.

Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images


  • Airport service workers are planning a day of action on December 8 to demand better conditions.

  • The workers want legislation that would guarantee higher wages and better benefits.

  • The action comes ahead of the busy holiday season, and could affect 15 major US airports.

December 8 could be a big day at some of the busiest airports across the country.

Airport service workers are gearing up for a day of action, rallying, picketing, and marching to demand better conditions on the job. 

The action could affect 15 cities, including Chicago, New York, and Seattle — which host some of the busiest airports in the country and the world. Airport service workers, such as janitors, security guards, and baggage handlers, will call on Congress to pass the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act

That legislation, introduced by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey over the summer, would ensure that any airport that receives project grants must pay their airport service workers a minimum of $15 or the area's prevailing wage and stronger benefits. 

"Airport service workers all across this country help make our airports run. They are paid poverty wages, and it's been poverty wages for the past 20 years, and it's overwhelmingly workers of color who are often paid the lowest," Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told Insider. "Because service workers are fed up with business as usual, they're demanding that Congress take action to ensure that they have a fair shot."

The action comes as service workers across the country demand better from work, especially under increasingly difficult circumstances. Passenger violence on airlines went up as travelers returned. Early retirement and pandemic layoffs — coupled with burnout over conditions — led to staffing shortages. All of that culminated in chaos.

Anyone who tried to travel over the summer probably experienced nightmarish conditions, including hours-long delays, missing luggage, and airports halting ticket sales completely

The workers on the ground at airports are fed up with understaffing, according to Henry, and they've been "facing a crisis that's fueled by corporate greed." Now, airport service workers are the latest essential group to ask for more.

"Right now, it is the holidays, and we are going to work for them," Verna Montalvo, a cabin cleaner at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, told Insider. "We all want to spend time on holidays with the family."

But the workers still show up and work over the holidays, "because the money that they pay us is not enough — we have to work double." Montalvo said she makes $12 an hour as a cabin cleaner, where there's always security concerns about what they may or may not find while cleaning out the planes.

Aircraft cabin cleaners make on average $15 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter, with some positions paying just $15,500 to $20,9000 annually. While some cities have raised wages and benefits, according to Henry, that's not uniform across the country.

"Everybody gets sick and they still come to work, because they don't have insurance. And why? Because the payroll is not enough to see a doctor, and they still have to come and work," Montalvo said. Benefits are "very, very important" for all workers, she said, so that they don't stop seeing doctors or lose pay for getting surgery.

Lashonda "Shonda" Barber, an international trash truck driver at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, said that with her pay, she's unable to pay her mortgage.

"The cost of living is so high here in Charlotte we really need low pay to go up, so we can afford to live here," Barber said.

Barber is also contending with short staffing, and, with the holiday rush incoming, said that things will only intensify. 

"It's not easy work when you've got two people doing it, when there's supposed to be 10," she said. The only way to have a strong team, she said, is with higher pay and benefits, so people would be happy to come in and work. 

"I hope we win this. I really do. Because enough is enough. These people are suffering," Montalvo said.

Read the original article on Business Insider