Airport Workers Call on Airlines to Protect Workers, Our Communities, and Travelers

SEIU represents 32,000 contracted airport workers at major airports across the country. Airport workers like cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, security officers, and baggage handlers are on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis and play a critical role in controlling infections and stopping them from spreading throughout the U.S. aviation system and into cities and towns across the country. The workers who clean airplane cabins, escort elderly and disabled passengers to their gates, and clean our airport terminals come into close contact with millions of travelers every single day, yet many don’t have sick leave, healthcare or even adequate breaks to wash their hands. Working people and passengers expect airlines to do everything they can to follow CDC and OSHA guidelines and ensure that any worker who is exposed to the virus has the testing, paid time off, and health care necessary to stem further contagion, so we can all return safe and healthy to our loved ones.

Airlines and elected officials need to take steps immediately to ensure the safety of workers and travelers:

  • Provide layoff protection through back pay and wage replacement if airlines reduce staff or hours, and provide unemployment benefits.
    • Eliminate sub-minimum tipped wages for airport workers, which are as low as $2.13 an hour, to ensure that all airport workers receive a full and fair wage without depending on tips as air traffic fluctuates.
  • Provide paid sick and family medical leave to actively encourage sick workers to stay home whether caring for themselves or a family member during illness, quarantine or school closings.
  • Provide comprehensive health care coverage that includes free coronavirus testing via either required benefits supplement paid by the employer to cover private health insurance premiums or expanded access to Medicaid and public health insurance. Health care coverage and paid sick and family medical leave must be extended during closures and layoffs.
  • Allow all airport workers the right to form a union of their choice, including contracted airport workers, so they can have the power and the forum to navigate critical situations such as this one. Employer – Union relationships are an important vehicle to assuring:
    • Airport workers have adequate time and supplies to keep themselves and passengers safe, including gloves, hand sanitizer, and time to sanitize surfaces and wash hands throughout the day to stop the spread of disease.
    • Airport workers are properly trained and updated about the hazards of the coronavirus and other pathogens, the employer’s plans to minimize exposure, and workers’ role in keeping themselves and passengers safe from contamination.
    • Staffing levels are adequate to ensure airplanes and airports are sanitized in line with OSHA and CDC guidance.

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