The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ali Jost, 202-730-7159,Mark McCullough, 202-730-7283,Kawana Lloyd, 202-730-7087

Contracted Airport Workers on COVD-19 Frontlines Demand Inclusion in $60 Billion Airline Industry Bailout

At-Risk Contracted Baggage Handlers, Cabin Cleaners and Wheelchair Attendants are in Close Contact with Travelling Public and Lack Paid Sick Leave and Health Benefits


32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg and contracted airport workers from some of the nation's top airports are demanding that Congress prioritize the health, safety, and economic security of the contracted airport workers in any airline industry bailout legislation.

"The coronavirus is having a huge impact on our lives and the economy and airport workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis," said Kyle Bragg, President of 32BJ SEIU. "Airports are often the biggest worksites in many of our cities so we have to protect the economic health of the nation--and that has to include the health, safety, and economic security of the contracted airport workers who keep our airports running every day. It's not just corporations that need support, it's the American people. They are the ones on the front lines. There's no reason basic protections for contracted airport workers shouldn't be included and we are going to keep pushing for that."

"The canceling of flights has caused reductions in our work hours," said Vladimir Clairjeune, who's worked as a passenger service representative at JFK Airport for 10 years. "Many of us are in the dark about how we're going to pay our bills. With the ban of flights from Europe, we live with the very real fear that the airports may shut down, that we may not have a job coming out of this. How do we pay our bills, how do we take care of our families."

Cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, and other airport workers are at the center of the coronavirus pandemic and play a critical role in stopping infections from spreading throughout the U.S. aviation system and into cities and towns across the country. Many of them are already struggling on low pay and without paid sick days or health benefits and now many have been laid off or face possible layoffs.

"When the layoffs happen, I know it will send airport workers in a tailspin," says Ben McMillan, a wheelchair attendant at the Philadelphia International Airport. "How will we continue to provide for our loved ones? I spend hours at the airport pushing grandparents and disabled passengers, but who's going to take care of me in my time of need? Congress needs to ensure the airlines don't receive a bailout unless hardworking contracted airport workers are protected."

"The pandemic has turned my life upside down. I have three kids to take care of and bills to pay, and now airport workers are on the brink of layoffs. I work hard and I come to Newark Liberty every day during this crisis to do my job. Bailouts cannot leave behind contracted workers like me who make air travel possible," Takiah Garrett, customer service agent at Newark Liberty International Airport.

In this unprecedented time, Congress should do all it can to protect the economic health of the nation, but it is critical that contracted airport workers who come into close contact with millions of passengers every day have full access to emergency relief like layoff protection, paid sick leave, and affordable health care.

With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy.