Airport workers across US strike for better pay, benefits

© Gus Ruelas
Service workers at nine US airports went on a 24-hour strike to protest low pay, lack of benefits and security problems. The strikers are asking for a $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave and vacation time, and better security training.

The “Poverty Doesn’t Fly” strike, organized by Airport Workers United, aims to raise awareness of the plight of poorly paid service workers – janitors, baggage handlers, porters and other sub-contracted staff – at major US airports.

Nine airports affected by the strike are Reagan National Airport serving Washington, DC; LaGuardia, Kennedy (JFK) and Newark Liberty airports serving New York City and the surrounding areas; the international airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois; Boston Logan International Airport in Massachusetts; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington; and Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport in Florida.

© Google Maps

Officials at the affected airports said the number of workers participating in the strike – estimated to be about 2,000 nationwide – are not big enough to cause significant problems, according to the Washington Post.

Strikers point to employees like David Tucker, a porter (“skycap”) at Washington, DC’s Reagan National Airport, whose hourly wage is $3.77 – plus whatever tips he can get from passengers.

The strike is backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has been fighting for a $15 minimum wage for low-paid service workers across the US.

The protesters have received support by some local officials, such as Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness in Florida, and state Representative Mia Gregerson in Washington.

US Representatives Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, both Democrats from Florida, have also come out in support of the strike.

The SEIU traditionally backs the Democratic party, throwing its weight behind Barack Obama in 2008 and endorsing Hillary Clinton in this year’s presidential campaign.

Originally scheduled for March 22, the strike was postponed after the terrorist attacks in Belgium, where bombs went off at Brussels’ international airport and at a Metro station downtown.