A strike has been averted at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and workers have moved one step closer toward union representation with an agreement announced Monday between Air Serv Corporation and Service Employees International Union Local 26.
Air Serv employs about 700 cart drivers, wheelchair agents, cabin cleaners, lavatory and water service fillers, unaccompanied minor escorts and baggage handlers at MSP. Two weeks ago, the workers announced they had voted to strike if no progress was made toward better working conditions and the right to form a union.
On Monday, SEIU and Air Serv released the following statement:
“SEIU Local 26 and Air Serv Corporation have resolved issues surrounding a threatened one-day strike at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Air Serv and SEIU have a shared goal to create an environment in which employees can freely choose a union representative if they so desire. Therefore, both parties have agreed to a process where Air Serv will remain neutral on the issue of unionization at the Airport, and SEIU has agreed to cancel threatened strike activity. Employee choice will be protected in an environment of labor peace.”
The workers have been organizing for more than three years to improve their pay and working conditions, but have been frustrated by different interpretations of federal labor law that have effectively left their workplace rights in limbo. So they called on Air Serv to voluntarily recognize their union and bargain a contract, a process that has taken place at other airports around the United States.
Monday’s announcement, marking a major victory for the workers, was the result of a lengthy campaign. Workers have held rallies in the airport terminal, spoken out at Metropolitan Airports Commission meetings and enlisted the support of elected officials, other unions and organizations such as 15Now Minnesota.
Along the way, they’ve won several victories:
In December 2014, the MAC adopted a policy requiring Air Serv and other airport contractors to provide paid sick leave to employees.
In January 2015, workers successfully pressured the company to provide them with paper copies of their paycheck stubs, important for making sure they are paid for all hours worked.
In February 2015, state lawmakers introduced legislation to bar “just-in-time” scheduling practices that disrupt the lives of airport workers and thousands of other Minnesotans. The measure was not passed, however.
In March 2015, Governor Mark Dayton appointed the first airport workers to the Metropolitan Airports Commission: Ibrahim Mohamed, a cart driver for Air Serv; and Dixie Hoard, a former Northwest and Delta Air Lines flight attendant.
In April 2015, the Center for Popular Democracy released a report linking low wages at MSP to poverty among Minnesota’s East African immigrant community, bolstering the workers’ call for higher pay.
In June 2015, the Metropolitan Airports Commission took the unprecedented step of setting a $10 minimum wage for companies operating at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Aside from Monday’s statement, no details were provided on the process that workers will use to decide whether or not they want union representation.