Airport workers are fasting on Thanksgiving Day. The symbolic 24-hour fast is to highlight the poor wages and bad working conditions the workers are allegedly subjected to. The non-aggressive and unique way to draw attention to the plight of workers is going on at more than a dozen airports in the United States.
On one of the busiest travel days of the year, airport workers have planned to go on a 24-hour fast. They are doing so to protest low wages and bad working conditions. The airport workers aren’t hired by the airlines or the airport authority. Instead of working directly for any major airline, they are employed by contractors the airlines hire, reported New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
As expected, the workers have long been claiming they are severely exploited. Besides earning very low wages, the workers aren’t entitled to employer-sponsored health insurance, or it’s quite unaffordable. The contractors often shuffle such workers, meaning many of the positions offer only part-time hours, and that too isn’t assured every day. These workers aren’t even offered the proper amount of sick days. The workers have been protesting for years with little to no effect. Their demands seem simple enough: Make at least $15 an hour, which is the long-proposed minimum wage, and the right to have union representation so that they are protected from threats and intimidation from the contractors. Currently, a few contract airport workers make between $12 and $14 an hour, while many make a lot less, reported Travel Pulse.
Airport workers fasting on Thanksgiving are participating in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Newark, Fort Lauderdale, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Columbus, reported Star Pulse. The workers won’t stop working, but instead will be seen wearing purple shirts and buttons that say “Ask Me Why I’m Fasting.” The primary aim behind the single day of fasting on one of the busiest travel days of the year is to garner support and highlight the plight of the workers to the travelers, who would remain completely oblivious otherwise.
The workers, who are going on a single-day fast, include those who go mostly unnoticed by the average airline passenger. These include people who perform the relatively lowly service jobs like customer service agents, terminal security officers, terminal cleaners, cabin cleaners, skycaps, wheelchair agents, ramp workers, and baggage handlers. It is estimated that some 2,000 airport workers will be going on 24-hour fasting, but industry insiders are quite skeptical about the effectiveness of such a way to send a message and are doubtful if their demands will be heard.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spokesperson Ana Tinsly assured that the fasting workers won’t hinder work and services won’t be disrupted. Being contract laborers, these airport workers do not have any kind of representation and, in effect, no protection. In the past, quite a few workers have faced threats and, in some cases, illegal retaliatory tactics from their employers.
Tinsly added that the fasting method is intended to “[s]end a clear message: Airport workers need to be respected. The fast will send a clear message to these companies: Intimidation tactics are not going to be tolerated.”
An airport service job used to be a lucrative career option. Workers who opted for such a job could afford a decent home and a family. However, over the years, “corporate maneuvering” has eroded all the benefits and left the workers in the dust. These workers now have to struggle with an unsure work week, poor wages, and corporate exploitation, lamented Tinsly. Corporations have been making money by severely cutting costs and by contracting; airlines can wash their hands off any potential retirement benefits that might have to be given out had the workers been on their payroll.
Over 25 million passengers are expected to travel primarily by air for Thanksgiving. But while they are at home gorging on home cooked meals, the airport workers will be fasting to get their voices heard.
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