Workers go on strike to protest higher wages
Contracted workers at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport recently gathered for a 24-hour strike to protest poor working conditions and inadequate compensation.
The workers are employed by Eulen America and Rio, contractors for airlines including Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, and United. Despite the historic wage increase passed last year by the Broward County Commission – where wages were increased to $11.84 with health benefits and $13.83 without – Rio employees still claim they are not receiving the required full minimum wage. And workers employed by Eulen complain of not being paid for extra working hours, including working through their lunch and other breaks.
“Based on the conditions we work under the fair income that we should be paid is $15 per hour,” says cabin cleaner Everton Dixon. Dixon also believes there’s no reason why most workers can’t be scheduled to a 40-hr week schedule. “There are plenty of planes to clean, and plenty of work, under often difficult conditions, so we need more pay and time to compensate for these conditions.”
Besides staff shortages, low salaries, too few work hours, irregular schedules that reduce periodical incomes, workers also protested inadequate supply of gloves and masks for workers exposed to fecal matter and harsh chemicals, as well as a lack of Hepatitis B shots for workers who are exposed to blood-borne pathogens. The protestors also sight security concerns, as cabin cleaners working the night shift are required to check airline cabins for explosives or other threats. However, Dixon argues that their cut work hours provides insufficient time for them to perform these security checks adequately.
“As was seen in the recent terrorist attacks at the Brussels airport, we also work under dangerous circumstances,” says Dixon. “It’s like our services are not considered as meaningful.”
Speaking at the protest, Commissioner Dale Holness called on the contract companies to improve working conditions. “Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport alone is the fourth fastest growing airport in the U.S., with almost 27 million passengers passing through in 2015,” said Holness. “It’s crucial that we invest in our workforce and ensure we create a stable and safe environment for both passengers and workers.”