Fort Lauderdale Airport service workers gathered for what they called a peaceful "Thanksgiving Prayer" rally and protest to demand just compensation.
Put together by property services union SEIU 32BJ, the protest saw roughly 80 people, including baggage handlers, cleaners, community supporters, and clergy, gather outside Departure-Terminal 1 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 11 a.m. Monday morning.
The protest, which also included several employees from Spirit Airlines, is the first of what the group hopes will be the starting point for many more to come.
Thanksgiving week -- the busiest travel week of the year -- was the place to kick things off in an effort to change airport workers' low wages and poor working conditions.
"This is the time of year when so many people travel to see their family," Eric Brakken, director of 32BJ SEIU, told New Times. "Airport workers should be able to enjoy this time too, but when their wage is $4.65 an hour, that's really difficult to do."
Fort Lauderdale's international airport ranks in the top ten busiest in the U.S. during the Thanksgiving holiday. The airport, the airlines, and their contractors profit under a business model that requires the workers to labor in a shadow economy -- having no job security, working for minimum wage, relying on tips, and lacking even basic benefits, such as health insurance or paid sick time.
These are the folks who help you get to your terminal, keep the airport clean, assist those who need wheelchairs, and keep things running smoothly so we can get to our destinations as conveniently as possible.
Brakken says 32BJ SEIU plans more peaceful protests to get the message out.
"Broward is a big economic engine," he says. "We need community leaders to step up for the workers."
The protest lasted an hour on Monday, and there were no delays or problems as a result. Folks flying out of Fort Lauderdale for the holiday this week shouldn't worry about their travel plans being affected.