Fort Lauderdale, FL —More than 200 airport workers, striking fast food, home care, and health care employees converged on Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport as part of a s part of a massive nationwide protests that saw civil disobedience and disruptions in 340 cities and 20 major airports.
“I came to this country for the freedom of expression I was denied in Cuba,” said John Marrero, lobby agent for Eulen America at Miami International Airport. “I came here for the American Dream which promises that if you work hard you can achieve a better life for you and your family. We are today to say that we are strong, we are united, and we will not stop until we have won $15 and a union for all workers!”
In Fort Lauderdale, protesters wearing hand decorated shirts that read “Respect”, “Union Now!”, and “Fight for $15” in multiple languages marched through the terminals catching sideways glances from busy holiday travelers. In between the terminals the workers joined activists from immigrant rights groups and the Broward Black Lives Matter Alliance to stage the largest mannequin challenge an airport has ever seen. The challenge highlighted indignities that workers endure, as well as their collective power when they come together.
“We’re all in this together,” said Westley Williams, a fast food worker for more than a decade. “My airport brothers and sisters face the same challenges. I was proud to stand with airport workers because we’re brothers and sisters in our struggle.”
Our airports are microcosms of our changing country, with the majority of workers being people of color and immigrants. In Fort Lauderdale, almost 80% of workers are Black and, or immigrants from Haiti and other Caribbean countries. Despite the fact that they help generate billions in profits—$36 billion expected this year alone—many are forced to rely on public assistance to simply put food on the table for their families. Nearly a quarter of airport workers receive some form of government assistance
“Much like the thousands of underpaid workers that make up the Fight for $15 movement, I am a Black, immigrant woman who is struggling to raise my family on the meager wages I earn,” said Ernise Ducasse, cabin cleaner for Eulen at FLL. “We are more determined than ever to stand up for our rights and to fight for equality in the workplace and in our society.”
For over three years, airport workers at FLL have been organizing for better wages and benefits, while fighting exploitation and charges of unfair labor practices. Earlier this month, cabin cleaners for Eulen America, which services Delta, Spirit, and Jet Blue airlines, went on strike for the fourth time over firings, threats, and intimidation after organizing against wage theft.
The wave of protests follows an election defined by workers’ frustration with a rigged economy that benefits the few at the top and comes exactly four years after 200 fast-food cooks and cashiers in New York City first walked off their jobs, sparking a movement for $15 and union rights that has compelled private-sector employers and local and state elected representatives to raise pay for 22 million Americans. A report released Tuesday by the National Employment Law Project shows the Fight for $15 has won nearly $62 billion in raises for working families since that first strike in 2012.
SEIU Florida represents over 55,000 active and retired healthcare professionals, public employees and property service workers in the state of Florida. SEIU members provide vital public services in Florida’s hospitals, nursing homes, public schools, community colleges, municipal and county governments, malls, and universities. With over 2.1 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America.