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Miami International Airport Workers Rally For Higher Wages

Concession and flight catering workers at Miami International Airport protested Tuesday for higher wages. 

Dressed in red t-shirts that read "Fed Up," employees of LSG Sky Chefs said the in-flight food catering company has been underpaying them. They want American Airlines, the largest airline at the airport, to pressure Sky Chefs to raise its employees' wages. 

"Most of these workers put food on the planes for American Airlines," said Wendi Walsh, the secretary and treasurer of United Here Local 355, which organized the rally. "We want American Airlines to tell [its] contractor that it's time to pay these workers what they deserve." 

Miami-Dade County has a living wage ordinance that requires county employees and employees who work for companies that contract with the county to make at least $12.63 per hour with qualifying health benefits. Sky Chefs has disputed that it falls under the ordinance.

Similarly, businesses renting space at the airport and other county facilities are not included under the living wage law. Concession employees therefore receive lower wages than other airport workers—such as janitors—who do receive living wages. 

Miami Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez has argued that forcing private tenants to pay living wages would hurt the county's ability to attract new business. He vetoed a law passed by the county commission in May that would have required tenants to pay employees up to $15 per hour. 

The Miami-Dade county commission is expected to reconsider including airport tenants under the living wage ordinance July 10. 

"We've made it clear to the county commission that this is not normal that a group of workers are being excluded," said Patrick Volcin, an organizer with Unite Here Local 305. "It's time for the county commission to do the right thing." 

The rally on Thursday outside Terminal D came after Orlando International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport workers met last month to discuss how to rally for higher wages. 

Carlos Caballero was the among the protestors chanting and marching in circles at the rally on Thursday. Caballero, a server for Jose Cuervo Tequileria, said he is hopeful the county will finally include workers like him under the living wage ordinance. He said he will not stop fighting until it does. 

"We've been left out long enough," he said. "It's time for a change. We need it."