By Nathan Jackson
Airport workers have been fighting for better work treatment for months now; workers and community members are still taking action to make every airport job a good job.
Workers for Menzies, a low wage contractor hired by Alaska Airlines handles bags for passengers. Workers, for months now have been asking for better wages, fair treatment and a voice in their workplace. The company has ignored them. The workers and community members have had enough and we marched on the Menzies HR office and demanded to be heard.
A security guard tried to force us to leave, but we held our ground. We’ve been ignored for long enough and they would listen to us this time. We were many and we were all in this together. Some of the workers were from different companies and different jobs. They know that when the workers get together in solidarity that is when real change can happen.
The manager on duty finally came out of the office and immediately launched into a “blah blah blah this is a private business, blah blah get outta here” type of speech, but he was interrupted by a Menzies worker.
“I work for Menzies,” said Ulysses. “I have every right to be here and you guys just haven’t listened to us when we go through our managers. So we’re here right now, together.”
The manager stopped using talking points and started to listen.
We handed him a petition signed by hundreds of airport workers that all are standing up for better pay, fair treatment and a voice in the workplace.
To Menzies Aviation, and the airlines that contract with Menzies:
We, the undersigned, are Menzies leads, ramp and other Menzies workers. We request that you take drastic measures regarding our management’s treatment of employees.
• Adequate supplies of proper personal protective equipment, like back supports and knee pads
• Higher pay—at least equal to the amount Menzies pays in other airports that have similar costs of living
• Employer paid medical benefits
We work hard and we know that we make Sea-Tac Airport run well. We deserve respect!
Later, Menzies workers were joined by other airport workers as they went to Alaska Airlines to demand that the airline hold its contractors accountable for their mistreatment. Alaska has a good reputation with many travellers, but they seem to think that who it hires as contractors is somehow not reflective of their core beliefs.
Here’s the truth. Companies are responsible for the contractors they employ. If Alaska thinks that hiring contract companies absolves them of responsibility for the way that contractor treats its workers, Alaska is sorely mistaken.
Workers get this. They understand that if you want real change to happen you sometimes have to follow the money and make your voices heard. Walking down to an Alaska Airlines corporate office to talk to the Vice President of Sub-Contracting, who is in charge of Alaska’s contractor relations, they linked arms and walked in step.
The Vice President was on vacation and this isn’t the first time, must have a ton of frequent flyer miles, so we talked to a public relations officer instead.
He gave us the usual run around about Alaska cares for this or that, but he wasn’t really a decision maker. We will keep pushing. We won’t just accept someone’s word. We want real changes at our port. We’re asking for fair wages, fair treatment and a fair chance to make our voices heard.
The workers and the community around our port are standing together. We’ve seen what can happen when people fight and support each other and we’re just getting started.
We will have justice at our port.