November 30, 2016
By Stephanie West
Washington, DC – According to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), 42 percent of airport workers live below the poverty level. This based on a recent SEIU survey of workers at the nation’s 30 busiest hubs. Those interviewed included security officers, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors, wheelchair attendants and other passenger service workers.
While airport personnel are living under the poverty point, Airlines are earning record profits. Commercial carriers in 2015 generated record earnings of $25.6 billion and $169 billion in sales, for a combined net income margin of more than 15 percent. This was the sixth consecutive year these carriers have posted after-tax profits. Despite the unprecedented industry earnings, airlines have created a race to the bottom that has hammered airport staff.
“The survey confirms what we have been saying all along,” said Nancy Vasquez, a skycap at Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport, who earns just $2.10/hour plus whatever unreliable tips she can get. “Every day we make sure passengers get to their gates safely, get their luggage and get on a clean plane, but our families can’t get by. If huge corporations like the major airlines and McDonald’s paid us $15/hour and respected our right to form a union, our lives and this country would be very different. The Fight for $15 shows that we have to take action, and even risk arrests.”
The survey found that a majority of those working at airports make less than $12 an hour and report annual household income of less than $25,000. Women make less than their male counterparts. The plight of contracted workers who earns just $11,000–$12,000 a year pushing passengers in wheelchairs has caught the national spotlight. Two Washington Post stories highlighted airport workers sleeping in homeless shelters.