Airport workers from Philadelphia and four other cities across the East Coast bused up to New York City to protest their wages and working conditions at the US Airways annual shareholder meeting this morning.
Workers from Boston, JFK, Newark, Fort Lauerdale and Philadelpia called a “people’s board meeting” starting at 8 a.m. right outside the company meeting, says Eugenio Villasante, spokesman for 32 BJ SEIU, which helped organize the protest.
Inside, the shareholders will hear the results of a vote on a potential $11 billion merger with American Airlines and approve compensation packages for top executives that could reach up to $86 million. In Philadelphia, several community groups have been exhorting City Council to make airlines raise the wage and benefits of contracted airport workers to the standards of city workers. But in June, Council renewed its two-year lease agreement with the airline without making any significant changes in the contract’s labor standards provisions.
Onetha McKnight, who was in New York Thursday night, has worked as a wheelchair attendant helping elderly and disabled passengers circulate the Philadelphia airport for six years. Her salary has not budged a cent since she started working there, at $7 an hour.
She also can’t afford to pay for the company's $150-per-month health insurance with her $400 biweekly paycheck, so she is uninsured. In fact, none of the coworkers she knows can afford health insurance at that price.
She is disapointed with City Council for “not taking the workers into consideration” in approving US Airways' new lease agreement with the airport. As for US Airways, “we all know the airline is making record profits,” she says. “We want to make sure … that we’re treated fairly.”
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