by Nate Jackson
Hundreds of airport workers, their families and community members came out on a sunny Saturday to say one simple thing: let’s make every airport job a good job.
We gathered at the flag pavilion where we set up a stage flanked by large standing flags of over twenty nations representing the diverse cultural backgrounds of the airport workers.
One worker, a yellow cab taxi driver named Gurminder Kahlon, took to the stage and greeted the large cheering crowd with a traditional Indian greeting “Namaskar,” which roughly translates to “not just me.”
“I’m from India,” he said. “But this isn’t about what country we’re from. It’s about how we are all in this together.”
Kahlon is a taxi driver whose route includes the airport. A large contingent of taxi drivers gave a loud shout as he continued.
“We taxi drivers see it everyday,” he said. “We see the injustice of the airport towards the workers and we stand with you!”
Rahwa Habte from One America surrounded by youth volunteers took the stage and started her speech with loud tongue flickering whoops.
“This is how we celebrate from Eritrea where I’m from,” she said. “I want to hear your cultural shouts too on the count of three let your voices be heard!”
At the count of three, cries, shouts, clapping and hollers rang out from every person in the crowd. it was a cheerful cacophony, but nothing was louder than the feeling of jubilation and unity.
That was the feeling that permeated the entire event. Everyone felt together and joined in solidarity with the airport workers who were fighting to make every airport job a good job.
There were staff and members from SeaTac city council, Seattle city council, the Seattle mayor’s office and both senator’s offices as well. Congressman Adam Smith spoke to the crowd from the stage about his own familial roots with labor. His father was a ramp worker who was able to support his family.
“We need middle class jobs,” he said. “And middle class jobs come with strong unions, fired up workers and a strong community.”
We couldn’t agree more. We came to the grassy area south of the flag pavillon to stand with workers and show solidarity; but it wasn’t just to pat each other on the back. We wanted to take the message to the street–so we did.
The taxi drivers lead the procession in their taxi cabs like a people’s version of a presidential motorcade. We spilled out onto International Boulevard and started down the street waving flags, chanting and dancing to the various drums scattered throughout the crowd.
We made our way down International Boulevard brandishing our international flags towards Angle Lake Park.
When we arrived there were homemade samosas made by the taxi drivers, soda, chips and other various food as we ended our march and started the after party. Music blared, dancing sprung up and groups of workers and their families spread out to enjoy the park while workers and community members mingled around the refreshments.
News media was in attendance and started interviewing workers while the rest of us kept up our celebration.
It was empowering and the workers felt the community support. They now know that the community will stand with them as they continue their struggle for fair treatment at our airport.
It is our airport and every job should be a good job.