On the 18th of January, airport contract workers from National Airport supported by union organizers gathered near the MLK Memorial, then marched on Independance Ave and stopped to blockade the intersection of 14th st and Independence Ave. Blackades there quickly stop traffic back to the 14th st Bridge, thus effectively blockading the bridge itself. This blockade was only held for a few minutes and was on the MLK holiday but is a clear warning of disruption to come unless these contract workers get their demands. The demand is simple: $15 an hour with benefits and the right to organize a union. Otherwise, Poverty doesn’t fly-and it doesn’t drive either. The Jan 18th blockade was a warning, the next one might not be.
Several of the National Airport contract workers decribed having to work three jobs to afford to eat, and barely being able to afford to travel to the airport to work. Contract workers getting in the $8 an hour range include skycaps, wheelchair assistants, cabin cleaners, vendors, and as many more as airports can get away with. In some other areas wages for these workers are currently in the $6.75 range. At one time the skycaps were tipped, but in an age of fliers expecting security checkpoint harassment nobody tips anybody anymore, and probably never will again. Thus, it is inappropriate to continue classifying anyone working at any US airport as a tipped employee.