Window on National Campaign to Raise Standards for Airport Employees
Thousands of airport employees in Northern Virginia, ranging from wheelchair attendants to aircraft cabin cleaners, lack paid sick days and regularly must work ill or injured. The Catholic Labor Network met some of those workers recently at a meeting organized by SEIU 32BJ, which represents many of the affected workers, and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP).
The workers from Dulles International Airport and Washington National Airport – many of whom are immigrants from Africa or Latin America – are calling on the airports authority to implement a paid sick leave policy covering contractors employed at the airport.
During the meeting, several workers testified to the problems created by the absence of paid sick days. One worker, a baggage encoder, explained, “I have a condition of gout, and sometimes it will flare up. I will try to ride it out [at work] because it is more painful to lose the pay.” Other workers spoke of returning to work too quickly after major surgery, to avoid missing a paycheck and possibly getting fired.
The local campaign is part of a national effort to boost wages, benefits and working conditions for airport workers. Usually employed by contractors, the security guards, skycaps, cabin cleaners, and others who keep an airport running are too often underpaid and undervalued. Many have organized with the SEIU.
The Catholic Labor Network will be working with the union and VICPP to urge the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to adopt a mandatory paid sick leave policy for contractors at the two airports.