32BJ SEIU: Airport Workers Protest Poverty Wages For Contracted Workers At Airlines' Shareholders Meeting

Jul 12, 2013, 12:04 ET from 32BJ SEIU

Passenger Service Workers from MA, FL, NY, NJ and PA Airports Say Industry's Return to Health and Profitability Comes At Expense Of Some Workers

NEW YORK, July 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- US Airways executive pay is skyrocketing while passenger service workers remain mired in poverty wages, say over a hundred low-wage airport workers and supporters who held a raucous Midtown Manhattan rally Friday outside the airline's shareholders meeting.

Airport workers from Boston, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, Newark and New York City called US Airways' business model unjust to because it calls for them to labor in a shadow economy with no job security, working for minimum wage, relying on tips and lacking basic benefits while the airlines' top executives rake in millions of dollars.

"To be blunt, this is hardly an income to raise a family on," said Mildred Rodriguez, a security officer at Newark Liberty International Airport who is paid the minimum wage. "We try our best anyway. Most days, it's a struggle just to get by. Every month I juggle bills, paying the most essential, deferring others. And, every month, I get just a little bit further behind."

Hector Figueroa, 32BJ SEIU President, said it is high time everyone sees the situation for what it is: an unfair system that rewards a few executives at the top at the expense of the worker bees for the good fortunes of the entire industry.

"Inside, US Airways' CEO, Douglas Parker, is asking shareholders for a 44% pay raise," Figueroa told workers protesting outside the meeting. "Imagine that. He wants $5.5 million and the possibility of up to $86 million in total compensation for himself and other top executives. That should be an embarrassment to US Airways. What about the wheelchair attendant, the cabin cleaner, the security officer? Who is looking out for them?"

US Airways' shareholders are expected to cast the final vote to approve a $11 billion merger with American Airlines—effectively creating the world largest airline—but the airline still fails to address wage and working conditions for thousands of contracted security officers, cleaners and wheelchair attendants who struggle to get by.

US Airways' shareholders will also vote to approve a $86-million package in 2012 compensation and merger-related contingency pay for US Airways' CEO and other top executives, including a potential $19.8 million severance package for American Airlines CEO Tom Horton.

With wages as low as $4.77 an hour plus tips and with no health insurance, many airport workers can barely cover the basic needs of their families. The median wage for airline subcontracted workers at Philadelphia International Airport, the nation's leading big city for poverty, is $7.85 an hour. At the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey airports, it is $8 an hour. US Airways CEO Parker makes $2,640 an hour.

Rashad Grant, a wheelchair attendant at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, said he has to work two jobs just to provide the basics for his family.

"With two jobs, I don't get much sleep at all," he said. "So, I come to work exhausted. But I do it because I am the head of a household with four children. Thankfully, they are covered by Medicaid. I, however, don't have any health insurance. We also have to rely on food stamps just to be able to eat."

With more than 125,000 members, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country. http://www.seiu32bj.org/