No date set, but workers demand action as we head towards busy Labor Day weekend
Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport – After countless setbacks because of employer recalcitrance, airport workers fighting for $15 and the right to form a union at MSP voted overwhelmingly to authorize an Unfair Labor Practice strike if no progress is made with their employer to end retaliation and win better work conditions and the right to form a union. Airport workers announced the results at a meeting of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), and held signs saying they were “Ready to Strike.” No date was set for a possible strike, but workers showed that they are tired of retaliation and low pay, and hope to see movement by the busy Labor Day weekend.
The workers are employed by Delta sub-contractor Air Serv in jobs like cart driving, wheelchair agents, cabin cleaners, lavatory and water service fillers, unaccompanied minor escorts and baggage handlers. With nearly ¾ of eligible voters taking part in the ballot over the two-day voting period, 98% of workers voted “Yes” to authorize a one-day ULP strike.
Abdi Ali is a cart driver at MSP who has worked at the airport for over eight years, explained the frustration of airport workers and why they are willing to take this step.
“How long does Delta contractor AirServ expect us to wait for an end to retaliation in our fight for $15 and the right to form a union,” Ali asked. “We have tried everything: petitions, protests, going to airport commission meetings, speaking to the press, but nothing changes because they are making such high profits off of our work.
“I am ready to join a one-day ULP strike because I know that while Delta is making record profits, MSP airport workers like myself and my co-workers should not have to live in poverty and be denied our right to organize and form a union,” Ali said.
Speaking at the hearing was Ibrahim Mohamed, a cart driver at MSP who was appointed by Governor Dayton last year to the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). Mohamed shared the growing frustration by workers fighting for decent pay and benefits while the airport continues to bring in growing profits.
“It has been almost two years since Gov. Dayton took a stand to give workers a voice at the airport by nominating me to be a MAC Commissioner,” said Mohamed. “In that time we have made significant steps, including passing paid sick time and a $1 wage increase for airport workers. But now it is time for our employer AirServ, a Delta contractor, to end the retaliation, respect our rights for better working conditions and allow us to form a union.”
Mohamed became the first East African MAC Commissioner and the first airport worker to serve the MAC when he was appointed in 2015, and shared why he joined the overwhelmingly majority of workers who voted “yes” to authorize a one-day ULP strike.
“I joined the overwhelming majority of my co-workers and voted for the one-day ULP strike. As a father, I know minimum wage is not enough to survive, and as a cart driver I know how critical my work is to Delta passengers,” Mohamed continued.
“We cannot continue tolerate the retaliation and low wages. I hope we do not need to strike, but we are ready to stand up for our rights if necessary.”
The workers involved in the vote included cabin cleaners, cart drivers, wheelchair agents and more. There are about 700 people in the group who have been organizing for the right to form a union for years. A vast majority of the workers are East African and their campaign is an important fight in work to close our state’s painful racial economic inequalities. In 2014 and 2015, the group rallied, protested and saw allies perform peaceful civil disobedience at the airport as they won a $1 pay raise and a landmark paid sick time policy. Despite those steps forward, workers are still being denied the right to form a union by Air Serv.
The strike vote is part of a larger movement by contracted airport workers to stand together and do whatever it takes to ensure every airport worker wins decent wages, good benefits, and union rights. By sticking together, speaking out for change, fasting and going on strike, 70,000 airport workers nationwide have won wage increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies.
SEIU Local 26 is Minnesota’s Property Services Union, uniting more than 4,200 janitors, 1000 security officers, and window cleaners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. SEIU unites more than 225,000 property services workers nationally and over 1.9 million including workers in healthcare and the public sector.