Citing what they call repeated labor violations by airline contractors, airport workers are holding a Pre-Labor Day Strike at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport on Tuesday. American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, and Spirit are among the airlines expected to be impacted by the strike, which began at 5:30 Tuesday morning in protest over what Service Employees International Union say are perpetual labor violations by airline contractors, G2 Secure Staff and Eulen America.
The SEIU says that workers are being kept from organizing to improve their poor working conditions and low pay.
"We simply cannot survive on the wages we are earning,” says Sandra Smith, a wheelchair attendant who works for G2 and Eulen. “I work more than 50 hours a week, assisting wheelchair bound passengers. I love my job and I love helping people. But it’s not fair that I make so little that I can only afford to live in a one-room apartment with my grown daughter. I certainly can’t afford to go to the doctor if I get sick. All we’re asking for are livable wages, decent benefits, and the respect and dignity we deserve on the job.”
Sandra says she takes two hour bus ride every day to get to work at FLL, where she earns $8.50 and $8.05 an hour, qualifying her for food stamp benefits.
Employees say that G2 had violated their rights when they suspended workers in retaliation for exercising their rights to collective action and interfered with worker's right to support their union and speak out about problems in the workplace, according to the National Labor Relations Board. G2 Secure Staff and Eulen America are currently under federal investigation by the NLRB over these violations.
In May, Broward County Commissioners introduced a bill to extend the County's Living Wage ordinance to include over 1,200 passenger service workers at FLL who earn an average of $8.14 per hour, which is significantly below the federal poverty line. But the commissioners have failed to come through and enact the bill, the SEIU says.
"For over two years, FLL airport workers have been organizing for living wages and better treatment on the job," says an SEIU statement. "These wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and others, who earn an average of $8.14 an hour and have no meaningful benefits, are excluded from Broward County’s $13.20 Living Wage Ordinance. Salaries are so low that 29% of workers at FLL must rely on some of government assistance, including food stamps or housing assistance."
The SEIU says that a rally will also be held outside the Broward County Commissioners meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The group says that every attempt by workers to organize to improve their wages and working conditions have been "met with intimidation and retaliation." The SEIU cites one example of Eulen America paying a $21,000 settlement to Marc Gatterau, a former employee who was fired after he appeared on TV during a news report covering a similar protest. The SEIU also points out that both G2 and Eulen America are under investigation for alleged threats towards workers who have attempted to strike and organize.
Tuesday's rally and strike is being held at the outside walkway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport on Departure Level between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 until 8:30 a.m.
Then, at 12:30 p.m., airport workers will stage a rally and march outside Broward County Government Building, located at 115 S. Andrews Ave, in Fort Lauderdale. Congressman Hastings will be joining in on that rally, which will call on commissioners to close the loophole in their Living Wage Ordinance.