In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I participated in an incredibly moving procession of airport workers like myself. We were joined by clergy and elected officials on our march through Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport.
I clean United Airlines planes for a contractor called PrimeFlight Aviation Services. Yet I’m paid so little that it’s a struggle to survive.
At one point, I was homeless because I did not have enough money to pay my rent.
I now have a home, but I am afraid I could lose it if my hours are cut.
That’s why we marched on Monday.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has the power to call for higher wages, and we have been working for years to do just that. But the Port Authority rejected the plan that would have brought parity across the Hudson River. Now we at Newark airport are getting left behind. New York airport workers just received their first raise, as part of the gradual plan towards $15 that they won last year.
I work just as hard as New York airport workers but I make less money.
It can be demoralizing, but I know that New Jersey airport workers are not second class citizens.
Airport workers are rising together and calling for change. We won’t stop fighting until we get what we deserve: a living wage, real benefits and respect.
This article was originally printed on SEIU.org in January 2017 . Reprinted with permission.
Benyamin Marte cleans United Airlines planes at Newark Airport.
I work in the United Airlines terminal as a baggage handler at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Not too long ago, the people doing my job made $22 an hour. Then United outsourced the jobs to Prospect.
Now I’m paid just $11 an hour. Let’s do the math. That’s half of what they used to pay.
Same job. Less money.
I live with my family. I help pay the bills and put food on the table. At 21 years old, I already handle more responsibility than a lot of people do in a lifetime.
My aunt and grandma also work at O’Hare. All three of us are underpaid. We’re tired of struggling just to get by.
The worst part is that we don’t get health benefits. When I was injured on the job, I had to pay for most of my treatment out of my own pocket.
That’s why I’m standing with my coworkers. Like airport workers across the country, we’re fighting for $15 and union rights.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I was arrested for blocking the street outside United Airlines’ headquarters in Chicago—an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. This spring, I joined my coworkers on an unfair labor practice strike to protest the retaliation we faced for coming together for $15 and union rights.
Chicago is an expensive place to live. Fifteen dollars—at least—is what we need to live our lives.
We know the money is there. Our jobs used to be good jobs. We’re pumping huge profits into United—but we’re barely making enough to make ends meet.
We are not going to stop until airlines step up and make our airports good for our communities again.
This article was originally printed on SEIU.org in October 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Raquel Brito is a baggage handler for Prospect Airport Services in the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.