Miami International Airport (MIA) workers made a special presentation to the Miami-Dade County Commission on Tuesday morning, claiming Ultra Aviation — an MIA airline contractor for Avianca, LATAM and other international airlines — has violated the county’s Living Wage Ordinance by shorting workers tens of thousands of dollars.
The workers, including baggage handlers and lobby agents, are covered under the Living Wage Ordinance, which requires companies to pay $12.63 per hour with qualifying health insurance benefits, or $15.52 per hour without those benefits.
A nationally-renowned health insurance expert, Kathryn Bakich, the National Healthcare Compliance Practice Leader and VP of the Segal Group, testified at the meeting that Ultra’s health plan does not meet legal standards, and that the company is unlawfully avoiding paying the higher wage.
Dozens of workers, including Haitian and Hispanic-Americans, rallied outside commission chambers at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami. They bore signs and stickers saying,“Don’t let our wages fly away”.
One of the protestors, Javier Virgo, a customer service agent said,
“I went to the emergency room because I was vomiting and feeling very sick. I thought I was covered by my insurance. Later I received a bill for more than $1,500 and it turns out that the insurance doesn’t even cover this bill. This whole time I’ve been earning about two dollars less an hour because I was supposedly covered. I could have probably saved that money myself and used it to pay for the hospital visit.”
Ultra is the only airline subcontractor that requires their employees to sign up for their health insurance, allowing the company to pay workers $12.63 instead of $15.52 and provide health insurance. However, Ultra’s health plan fails to provide coverage for all ten essential benefits as required by law. It provides no coverage for pediatric care, mental health or substance abuse care, nor does it cover rehabilitative service like physical therapy.
The workers are urging the county commission to intervene on their behalf to insist Ultra Aviation comply with the county’s Living Wage Ordinance, pay the wages stipulated and provide the requisite health benefit.