This April, more than 1,400 workers at the Philadelphia International Airport joined Local 32BJ, SEIU. Baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, skycaps, line queues and other passenger service employees have spent the last four years protesting and calling for better working conditions and pay. Their hard work and dedication have paid off.
Workers started organizing for a raise to a living wage four years ago. Because they are employed by subcontractors, airport workers were exempted from Philadelphia’s minimum wage and benefits ordinance. This meant that many workers at the Philadelphia International Airport were routinely paid sub-standard wages without health benefits or paid sick leave. In 2014, airport workers succeeded in placing a referendum on the ballot, that would extend the ordinance to include subcontracted workers. It passed overwhelmingly, but their work was not finished.
Over the next several years, the airport workers staged protests and actions to demand the enforcement of the ordinance. Hundreds of workers unionized at the different subcontractors, despite repeated attempts to sabotage their organizing efforts from the companies. It was a long, and hard-won fight.
The labor movement celebrates every organizing victory. When workers show their determination and solidarity by joining a union, we all win. Organizing is not easy. For as long as workers have tried to organize themselves, they have met resistance and even hostility. Sometimes it takes years or decades for workers to join a union, but it is our persistence in the face of that adversity which makes us strong.