Airport Workers Protest for Higher Wages, Union Rights
In 10 U.S. cities, airport workers spent MLK Day on Monday protesting for higher wages and collective organizing rights. One of those protests was in Miami.
The protest took place in front of the Eulen America building near Miami International Airport. Eulen subcontracts airplane cleaners and other workers for several major airlines. Workers say the company has threatened or fired employees who attempt to unionize.
Eulen did not respond to WLRN’s request for comment. But the protest wasn’t targeting just one company.
About 50 protesters called for a $15 hourly wage and union rights for airline workers across the country.
They carried yellow and purple signs with a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the words “Destination: Justice.”
In English and Spanish they chanted: "What do we want? Justice! Que queremos? Justicia!"
Sandra Smith, a cabin cleaner and wheelchair attendant at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, says even working those two jobs she can’t afford her own home and can’t send money to her family abroad.
"I can't help my grandkids the way I wanted," she says. "You've got to make a sacrifice here to help your family at home because you're still going to want to help them."
Helene O’Brien, who's with the Service Employees International Union, said situations like Smith's are common among South Florida airport workers.
"They all make less than $15 an hour. And if they get health insurance, they make $11 or $12 an hour," she says. "But unfortunately in Miami the workers don't even work full-time."
O’Brien says protests will continue if airline companies don’t meet workers’ demands.