Reagan National Airport workers demand more pay, health care at rally

Hundreds of airport workers nationwide, including those at Reagan National Airport, rallied Wednesday to demand better pay, health care and sick days.

Union members with 32BJ SEIU have worked steadily through the pandemic, they said, and the essential work is taking a mental and physical toll.

“We’ve had workers all throughout the pandemic having to choose between going to work sick and missing a day’s work without pay.” said Jaime Contreras, the union’s executive vice president for the capital region. “No worker should have to make that choice.”

Union workers also created a pledge and delivered them to airlines at roughly 20 airports where the rallies occurred, asking airline executives for a promise to boost pay and offer health care.

Locally, the union delivered the pledge to American Airlines.

“I should be valued as a worker. I deserve to be paid a living wage,” said one airport worker during the demonstration at Boston’s Logan International Airport. “This whole time, I’ve had depression. We are getting paid so low and I don’t have money to take care of my mental health. That’s very unfair to us.”

In addition to the D.C. area, airport workers rallied in New York City, Miami, Philadelphia and Orlando. Baggage and wheelchair handlers, cabin custodians and some security officers make up the bulk of the union’s membership.

Contreras said that without health care and sick days, working through the pandemic for airport employees becomes a public health issue.

“They interact with the general public,” he said. “These workers are not only risking themselves but their families and communities.”

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