Airport Workers Demand Mayors' Attention at Conference

Jun 25, 2017

Airport workers around the country are demanding more rights, including higher pay and freedom to unionize. 

The service workers union 32BJ SEIU hosted a town hall to discuss those demands during the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"Especially when ... we are not seeing a federal response on issues of workers, there is a very important part [for] local government to play a role," says Rocio Sáenz, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union. Hundreds of mayors were in Miami Beach for the conference. Sáenz said it's crucial to have them as allies. 

During the town hall Friday, workers from airports in Newark, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale shared testimonies. One was Newton Ingram, who works curbside at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

He said he'd like for his colleagues to unionize so that, among other things, they could get better training in case of another situation like the shooting there earlier this year. 

"We care about our passengers, and that's what we do. And so we want to be protected, but we also want them to be protected. And the fact that we had no training to be able to take care of them  -- that's an experience we felt really bad about," he said.

Several mayors, including Mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine, and Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio made appearances at the town hall. Over the course of the conference, the mayors are considering various resolutions. One urges airlines to make sure workers are paid fairly and can unionize. 

The conference ends Monday.