Airport Workers Advocate in Support of Ordinance for $15 Minimum Wage at DEN
Most Coloradans—no matter where we come from or the color of our skin—want the same things: to be able to make a decent living, save for the future, and give our kids a great start in life. But many airport workers are working longer hours for lower wages because greedy airlines have rigged the rules against us. Passengers are paying more for less, airport workers are struggling on low wages, and taxpayers are too often picking up the airlines’ cost of doing business.
Baggage handlers, security officers, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, and other airport workers contribute soaring profits to the global airline industry, which profited $38 billion in 2017, while struggling to make ends meet on low wages and often without benefits or paid days off.
It wasn’t always this way. Airport jobs used to be good union jobs that allowed people to support their families. Now, airlines often outsource those jobs to irresponsible contractors that cut corners on wages, benefits, training and other standards so they can make even more money.
Major airlines—who have already taken millions of dollars from Colorado taxpayers— have a responsibility to stop the race to the bottom at the nation’s 5th largest airport. And Mayor Hancock and City Council have the power to hold those airlines accountable to our communitiesby ensuring all airport workers have the right to a union and are paid at least $15 an hour.
For more than two years, airport workers at DEN have gone on strike, rallied and spoken out to elected officials for raises and union rights. With housing costs skyrocketing, a worker making the current minimum wage of $11.10 has to work
78 hours a week to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in Denver. Over 6,000 airport workers at DIA make less than $15 an hour, 33% of whom earn minimum wage, according to a 2017 report by Economic Roundtable.
Why we need $15/hr
Now it’s time for the City of Denver and DEN to do their part!
“The current minimum wage makes it impossible to afford the high rent in Denver,” says DEN passenger service agent Mengistu Sewore. “This is why many of my co-workers work two to three jobs to support themselves and their families. One, full-time job should be enough to live in this city. It is simply not. I have even heard of airport workers having to sleep on benches at the airport between double shifts. I speak for my coworkers who all want to be self-reliant with their finances—we need this increase right away.”
Members of SEIU Local 105 have organized strikes, rallies and actions in the fight for good jobs at the airport. In October 2018, DEN airport workers rallied together as part of the Airport Workers United Global Day of Action to demand better pay and working conditions. Airport workers have also helped elect leaders who support fair wages, have testified and rallied at City Council, collected more than a thousand signatures of support, and met with Mayor Hancock—repeatedly telling their stories and helping elected officials understand the dire situation for workers at Denver International Airport.
About the Ordinance
The City Employee and Contractor Minimum Wage ordinance, which covers DEN airport workers, would increase to $13 on July 1, 2019, $14 on July 1, 2020 and $15 on July 1, 2021. Starting on July 1, 2022 the City Employee and Contractor Minimum Wage will increase annually based on Denver/ Boulder CPI-U. The ordinance will cover all City workers, subcontractors, and tenant employees—including more than 6,000 employees at Denver International Airport.
We thank the Mayor for introducing this ordinance and urge City Council to pass the measure as soon as possible.
About SEIU Local 105 and DEN Airport Workers United
Thousands of baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners and other airport workers are joining together to win good union jobs at DEN so they can afford a roof over their heads and food on the table. One thousand security officers, janitors, and parking attendants at DEN are already members of SEIU Local 105 and have secured higher wages, health care, and other benefits.
By coming together across our differences, speaking out, and going on strike, nearly 120,000 airport workers have won raises and 30,000 have won a union with SEIU at 37 airports across the country.