How One Local Union Is Doubling Wages for America’s Airport Workers

Thursday, April 2, 2020
By Steven Greenhouse, The American Prospect

Andrea Bundy came to the United States from Jamaica in 2011 in pursuit of the American dream, but her first job in America—cleaning airline cabins at New York’s Kennedy Airport—turned out to be anything but a dream. Her pay was so low, just $7.25 an hour, that “I wasn’t able to afford the clothes for my daughter to be on the high school track team,” she says.

In a typical eight-hour shift, she helps clean 7 to 12 planes, picking up trash left on seats and in seat pockets and mopping airplane bathrooms and pantries. She also has to get on her hands and knees to look under seats to make sure no one on the previous flight left a bomb or poison. Airlines sometimes plant fake bombs on the floor or wedged underneath a seat cushion, and if cabin cleaners fail to find them, they can get suspended or even lose their job.

Bundy was fortunate. Most private-sector unionization campaigns fail, undone by obsolete labor laws that often thwart workers’ attempts to organize and by fierce opposition from their employers. But 32BJ decided to go all in, devoting sizable resources to the campaign and devising a strategy that mobilized workers and their allies to pressure government officials to raise the workers’ wages, which in turn built the momentum for unionization. It worked. Local 32BJ mounted one of the biggest private-sector unionization drives in years and spearheaded a living-wage campaign for the airport workers. That dual strategy doubled pay for many airport workers and enabled them to win a union.

Read the full story from The American Prospect

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