SeaTac airport workers propose a bill of workers' rights

Update:  Here are photos from the event as workers tell elected officials they need good jobs.  

Seattle Port Commissioners and SeaTac City Council members listened closely as over 70 workers crammed into a community meeting room at SeaTac Airport on July 13.  Working Washington was there to share our stories about airport work, and how many people aren’t allowed access to full time work or health care benefits. Too many people work hard for the airport, but don’t receive even basic respect for the necessary work that one of the commissioners said “made this airport work.”

Community members talked about how they did not want riches or any special niceties, just fair treatment.

One worker named Hosea, a skycap for over 30 years, talked about how his hard work and his loyalty to the airport has not made a difference in how he is treated. At the front of the room, speaking into a microphone and sweeping his eyes across the crowd, he described his work and the lack of respect he felt from his managers.  In the last few years, his work hours have been cut from 6 hours to just 4 hours a day.

Another worker talked about how the port was cutting hours while hiring new people.  She didn’t understand how they could do that – as most of the people in the airport have families to support.  She talked about her three children and how her job working concessions is the only thing keeping them from becoming homeless.

In the crowd, a woman yelled out that she didn’t know why she wasn’t working.  In the past year, she has applied to over 10 different positions for which she is qualified and has not heard any response. She wants to work, she is making an effort to work, and she still can’t get work.

The elected officials, Port Commissioners and City Council members, listened. They shook their heads when a speaker talked about her hours being cut and her time off being sporadic and unpredictable.  They nodded when workers talked about how they could not plan for the future with so little job security.  They heard what the airport workers were going through, they were respectful and they were sympathetic.

Port Commissioner Rob Holland spoke up, thanking everyone and sharing his own story about how his father worked his whole life on the docks at the Port of Seattle.  Commissioner Holland said that when he was elected, it felt like he was coming back home.  He understood the concerns that workers were sharing, because he lived through many of the same challenges. Commissioner Holland also acknowledged that when he was growing up, things were better – his family was able to make it on his father’s salary. He promised to do whatever he could for today’s airport workers, to change things for the better.

At the end of the meeting, Working Washington proposed a pledge of workers’ rights, including the right to full time work, job security, to unionize without fear of reprisal, and to basic respect for the loyalty and service that workers show everyday to the port.

Every elected official present signed the pledge, with great cheers from the crowd.