NEW YORK – For some airport workers, Thanksgiving was more than the usual family feast – it marked the end of a fast for a living wage and union rights.
Workers for contractors at airports in 15 major cities began their 24-hour fast on Tuesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Carlos Vega, an airplane cleaner at Kennedy International Airport, was among the workers wearing buttons inviting travelers to “Ask me why I’m fasting.”
“We’re just letting them know that we’re going on a hunger strike to show you that we also need to be fed,” he explains. “It’s a struggle for us to make ends meet, and every day it’s a struggle just to put food on the table.”
Vega says years ago airport workers were paid a living wage. But when outside contractors took over supplying services, they hired nonunion workers and wages fell.
“Some of my coworkers are actually living out of their cars because they can’t afford their rent,” he relates. “And that’s why we’re all joining up with the union to fight for 15 an hour. That way, we could provide for ourselves and for our family.”
Last week, some 2,000 workers at seven airports, including LaGuardia and Kennedy staged a brief strike.
The job action didn’t disrupt travel, but workers say they’ll be stepping up their efforts in the coming weeks.
PHOTO: Airport workers will be stepping up their campaign for better wages, benefits and union rights. Courtesy: SEIU/32BJ
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