In an interview with Yahoo Finance Live, Henry explained that these issues were coming to a head during the summer travel season and just as the airline industry struggles to cope with consumer demand brought on by the relaxation of pandemic restrictions.
Union Leaders Say Wages are Key to Reducing Worker Stress
The SEIU represents two million workers, including 35,000 airport service personnel employed across a range of different roles around the nation’s airports. Commenting on the issues at hand, Henry explained, “Service workers in airports report a very acute level of stress that is due to understaffing and because, understandably, the traveling public is mad about delayed flights and cancellations. Those are workers who are earning $8 an hour with no benefits and no guaranteed hours and who served us throughout the entire pandemic.”
“Dallas, Charlotte, and Phoenix [are] where we’ve seen the most worker activity. But service workers in our nation’s airports have been demanding unions for the past 20 years in 24 other airports from JFK and LaGuardia, where workers have made wage gains to $19 an hour through their unions, to O’Hare, to San Francisco, LAX, and Seattle,” Henry added, observing that locations with organized unions have fared better in terms of achieving higher pay than those without representation. Using an example, she said that “in places where the airlines have recognized unions and have bargained wages, a wheelchair attendant in Chicago is earning $18 an hour this month in July while the same attendant in Dallas is earning $8 an hour.”
The SEIU has advocated for a set national wage along with standardized benefits by supporting the Good Jobs and Good Airports Act, but as Yahoo notes, pilots and members of cabin crew have also been pushing for better pay and conditions via their own separate unions. However, from her perspective, Henry believes that airlines should shoulder responsibility for the issues that are now facing airline service workers.
“The CEOs of the major airlines American, Delta, and United are to blame. They have to make a decision to not play by the old rules but to recognize the new moment that we’re in and to address the worker shortage by investing in living wage jobs where people can join together in unions. The other thing is CEOs could decide tomorrow to raise wages at the bottom to stabilize service at airports, so action is on the desks of the major airline CEOs,” she said.
While Henry did concede that the CEOs of some major airports have taken action to raise wages – referencing the success of contract workers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in achieving at $18/hour minimum wage – she stated that this hasn’t been the case throughout the industry, observing that, “…CEOs have wanted to limit their exposure into individual airports. And that’s why the workers’ demands have gone national.”
Feature image courtesy: Service Employees International Union
Source: frugal travel guy