Despite the challenges of a pandemic, authorities overseeing airports from San Francisco to New York to Miami took action to support frontline airport workers. While the Port of Portland took a “wait and see” approach to fighting poverty jobs at PDX, other airports showed that concerted action can drastically improve working conditions for essential airport subcontracted workers.
In February, Miami Dade County–operator for Miami International Airport (MIA)–took decisive action. Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava moved to cancel the contract for an airline subcontractor operating at the Miami International Airport. The contractor faced years of complaints of unsafe working conditions, including some that resulted in fines totaling over $45,000. After the company committed to new safety protocols and to hire an independent health and safety inspector to monitor working conditions, the county reversed course, allowing the company to continue to operate at MIA.
On March 4th, hundreds of airport workers held a virtual rally marking the start of negotiations for a new union contract for New York and New Jersey airport workers. The contract with cover the wages and working conditions for more than 10,000 majority Black and immigrant airpot workers. The negotiations will be the first opportunity for airport workers to implement the Healthy Terminals Act, a New York state law which equips airport workers with a path to affordable health insurance.
New York assembly Member Alicia Hyndman, one of the co-sponsors of the healthy terminals act, spoke at the virtual rally, saying, “If we are serious about recovering from the economic impact of this pandemic, we have to be serious about working for the working people…I am excited to stand with you once again as you call for the seamless implementation of the Healthy Terminals Act and other provisions that will put health and safety to the forefront.”
San Francisco airport workers similarly look forward to fully implementing a new health insurance mandate at SFO airport. The requirement will mean that employers contribute $9.50 per hour toward the purchase of fully paid full family medical insurance for airport workers, on top of a wage standard of $18.74 per hour.
PDX airport workers continue to call on the Port of Portland to intervene to support job quality standards at Portland International Airport. PDX can be an engine of economic activity to support good jobs. The PDX workers calling on the Port of Portland are disproportionately women and people of color, calling on the Port of Portland to make good on its commitment to equity. An Airport Worker Bill of Rights would bring PDX back in step with airports nationwide.