June 9, 2016
By Sari Amedino
Washington, DC – As corporate executives of the world's airlines gathered in Dublin on June 1-2, 2016 for the International Air Transport Association's annual meeting and World Air Transport Summit, airline passengers around the world on June 1st were met by airport workers protesting poverty wages. While industry profits climb to more than $36 billion in 2016, those employed at airports continue to be underpaid.
Workers participated in the first-ever airport workers global day of action to draw attention to the fact that while the airline industry is making record profits, the airport service workers who make such profits possible are being poorly paid, overworked, and overlooked.
In the United States, workers were leafleting and talking to passengers. Rallies, demonstrations and press conferences were held in several cities including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami, and Washington, DC. Banners noted that "Airlines: $36 billion in profits, Workers: underpaid and under pressure".
"We are the backbone of the aviation industry and though our hard work is the basis of the airlines' success, too many of us live in poverty and can barely afford to put food on the table," said Mikeyda Samuda, a cabin cleaner for AerLingus and Jet Blue's subcontractor, Ultimate, at JFK airport. Ms. Samuda traveled to Dublin and joined airport workers from around the world.
"By standing together, we're making it clear to the powerful CEOs that airport workers worldwide are vigilant and we will hold them accountable no matter where they operate," said Samuda.
A new report by the London-based International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) finds that workers in areas such as security, wheelchair assistance, fuelling, cargo and baggage handling, cabin cleaning and passenger check in, face a working environment marked by stress, irregular working patterns and wage levels that are often insufficient to meet their basic living costs.
Around the globe, actions were held at 30 major airports in countries including Ireland, Brazil, Argentina, England, Germany, and the USA. The efforts were spearheaded by a new global coalition called Airports United. The group is determined to secure economic justice and higher standards for airport service workers no matter where they work. The June 1st actions were designed to send a clear message to the powerful corporate executives that with record profits, there's no excuse for airport workers anywhere in the world to live in poverty.