Fort Lauderdale Airport Workers Rally For Higher Pay Just Before Busy Thanksgiving Travel Days

Nov 20, 2012

Many of the service workers at South Florida's busiest airport for Thanksgiving holiday travel say they can't afford a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year.

About 60 members of a local airport workers' union held a rally Monday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to try to persuade airline contractors to pay them higher wages.

The Workers

Thirty-six-year-old Edson Jocelyn of North Miami  earns about $8,000 a year at the airport as a combination skycap and wheelchair-pusher.  He says he can't afford to pay for health insurance for his three children.

"I have Medicaid for them.  Foodstamps.  That's how I'm living," says Edson.

Thirty-eight-year-old airport worker Charmaine Eccleston says she also relies on food stamps to get by.

Airport service workers gather outside Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Monday to rally for higher wages.
Credit C. DiMattei

Since Fort Lauderdale's airport is owned and operated by Broward County, she says she hopes County leaders will step up on behalf of the workers.

"I'm hoping they change things so we can get better pay," says Eccleston. "To get insurance--because, you know, insurance is very important.  Especially for a family with kids."

The Travelers

A back injury has left 73-year-old airline passenger Mabel Ellis confined to a wheelchair for the last two years.  She just returned to South Florida from a trip to Jamaica and relies on the airport's wheelchair pushers to assist her.  She says she realizes how little the airport attendants are earning, so she tries to tip them well.

"I'm glad somebody's doing something to help them.  Because they work very hard.  And they're very polite," says Ellis.

The rally organizers say as many as 1,500 airport service workers are earning as little as $4.65 per hour plus tips.

The workers are circulating a petition asking Broward County leaders to pay the workers a living wage.