Workers protested safety & health concerns, reports of stolen wages
Fort Lauderdale airport workers for Eulen America and Rio, service contractors for Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, United, and others, went on a 24 hour strike on Wednesday March 30th and March 31st to protest safety and health concerns, sweatshop-like working conditions, and inadequate hours and benefits.
The FLL workers joined others at who were striking in major hubs including, New York City, Newark, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, and Boston.
Airport workers were set to strike last week, but postponed the planned work stoppage due to the horrific tragedy in Brussels. Those attacks, which took place in the city’s international airport and subway, highlighted the dangerous working conditions that airport workers often work in and the need for more workforce investment.
Broward Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness joined the striking workers in demanding better working conditions.
“South Florida is a major transportation hub, said Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness. 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. It is crucial that we invest in our workforce and ensure that we create a stable and safe environment for both passengers and workers.”
The strikes are taking place amidst record profits for the aviation industry, while many airport workers continue to live in poverty or face abusive working conditions. Last year the airlines raked in more than $23 billion in profits, while outsourcing many of their service jobs to low-bid contractors.
This has led to depressed wages, high turnover rates, and inadequate health and safety standards, which put workers in danger and undermine security and quality of service.
“As a front line airport staff member, the work that I do is important and should be valued,” added Morancy. “We need to have the right equipment and be properly trained in order to create a secure and healthy environment. We need good working conditions and adequate pay and benefits so that we want to stay at our jobs.”
Morancy and other cabin cleaners say that Eulen does not provide adequate cleaning supplies, like gloves or masks, and are not given Hepatitis B shots, even though they come into contact with blood, fecal matter, harsh chemicals, and possible blood-borne pathogens.
Night-time cabin cleaners are also required to do security sweeps of the cabins in order to check for explosives or other threats. However, some workers say that Eulen has cut their hours and give them too little time to properly perform these important tasks. Some workers also feel they are not adequately trained in emergency preparedness if they do encounter a dangerous situation.
After years of earning poverty wages, FLL workers recently won a wage increase when Broward County voted to include subcontracted airline workers in the county’s Living Wage Ordinance. Unfortunately, many workers are now complaining of cut hours, staffing shortages, increased workloads, and even stolen wages.
The strikes and rallies are part of a national push by airport workers who are uniting with other underpaid workers in the Fight for 15 movement to do whatever it takes to win at least $15, good benefits, and union rights.