Flanked by local labor leaders and politicians, service workers at Logan Airport held an indoor rally to campaign for higher wages, better treatment, and a union contract on Thursday.
While TSA employees are a part of a union, the workers who clean the planes, push wheelchair-bound passengers, and handle baggage are not. These workers are contracted by outside companies, and are paid $8 to $9 hourly wages without health care or other benefits, according to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, a local union branch.
In a room just off the Boston Commons on Thursday morning, these workers came together to rally in support of improved pay and working conditions and to criticize their treatment from airline contractors.
Roxana Rivera, a district leader for SEIU 32BJ, said that the rally created “a lot of hope” among workers who want to unionize. “They felt supported and they spoke and told their story,” Rivera said. “They felt supported by the folks there, which gives us hope that we have a pathway to win here.”
Among those supporters were the two leading Democratic Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates, Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman, who both gave speeches at the meeting promoting the workers’ efforts. A representative for Boston Mayor Walsh appeared in support as well, as did a mix of local councilors and labor organizers.
The rally comes not long after several instances of Logan Airport contractors failing to pay workers minimum wage. In 2012, Coakley, the state Attorney General, ordered contractor Huntleigh USA to pay wheelchair attendants $11,000 in back wages. Coakley fined another contractor, Flight Services & Systems Inc., about $5000 in January 2013 for similar infractions.
“We are sympathetic to the concerns raised regarding working conditions and take them seriously,” a spokesperson from Massport, the government agency that owns and operates Logan, said in a statement. “This matter is primarily one between private employers – hired by the airlines --- and their workforce and any resolution will, by necessity, involve the airlines and the firms providing services to them and their employees.”