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Contract PHL Airport Workers Seek Higher Wages, Healthcare

by Michayla Savitt, Keystone State News Connection

Jun 07, 2021

Anticipating a busy summer, airport workers in Pennsylvania continue their fight for better wages and health insurance, and demand what they say would be a fair contract from American Airlines and other carriers.

Philadelphia International Airport contract workers and supporters rallied last week in support of a prevailing wage bill being debated by the city council, which would change a city agreement with air carriers, to boost hourly wages to just over $15, create a paid-leave standard, and provide an hourly wage supplement for healthcare.

Michelle Richards, an airport wheelchair attendant and member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ, supports the proposal, especially after working on the front lines throughout the pandemic.

“We’re not going to stop until we get what we deserve, because we are the ones out here doing the jobs, and they are the ones behind the scenes,” Richards asserted. “We are the faces of the airport, that does the job every single day.”

American Airlines has pushed back on the bill, telling City Council member Kenyatta Johnson in a letter it cannot accommodate a pay increase, since revenues have been down. The proposal is backed by several city council members and is still under review.

SEIU noted workers who would be affected by this bill are predominantly Black, and as front-line staff, they remain at greater risk of getting sick.

Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of Power Interfaith, voiced frustration at the rally with the airline’s opposition to the proposal.

“How can American Airlines’ CEO claim to support Black Lives Matter, but can’t support the Black lives that work every single day to make this airport and this airline run?” Royster asked.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, Memorial Day weekend marked the highest travel numbers for U.S. airlines this year.

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