After years of organizing, including many landmark victories along the way, hundreds of workers employed by Delta subcontractor Air Serv have won recognition of their union with Service Employees International Union Local 26. They include baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, cart drivers, wheelchair agents, unaccompanied minor escorts and lavatory and water service fillers.
“I couldn’t be happier than I am today,” said cart driver Abdi Ali, a father of three who has worked at MSP for eight years. “This victory did not come easy, but it was worth the effort. We are always there for each other, and now we will finally have a real voice at the airport.”
The news came after a neutral third party verified a majority of workers signed cards supporting the union.
The vast majority of the workers are East African and their campaign is an important part of the work to eliminate Minnesota’s racial economic inequalities. Since 2013 the group has organized, rallied and joined allies at the airport to support the movement for an “Airport that Works for All of Us.”
“We’re all working together for a better life for our families,” said Misrak Anbesse, a mother who cleans planes for Air Serv at MSP. “I know the community here in Minnesota will keep supporting us as we bargain a good contract and work to raise wages at the airport even more.”
“Winning our union was a BIG step for us—and for everyone working to raise up people of color and immigrants in Minnesota,” Anbesse said.
The victory is the latest in the larger Fight for $15 movement of contracted airport workers to stand together to ensure every airport worker wins decent wages, good benefits, and union rights. It comes just after airport workers in Seattle announced their victory in winning union rights. By sticking together and speaking out for change, 85,000 airport workers nationwide have won wage increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies.
The achievement is the latest in a string of victories for 600 airport workers at MSP—and in the national movement of airport workers who are raising standards in some of the country’s busiest airports. Minnesota airport workers have already won representation on the Metropolitan Airports Commission for the first time ever, and have succeeded in passing a $1 an hour raise, paid sick days and a worker retention policy. Worker retention policies help maintain consistency and experience when an airline changes contractors—a plus for workers and passengers alike, the workers said.
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