Hillsborough County, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - "We're the Union that fights for airport workers, janitors, and security officers. Unfortunately, Tampa Airport is a modern day sweatshop," said 32BJ SEIU Leader Helene O'Brien. Tampa airport workers gathered at the main terminal Tuesday morning to protest poverty wages many workers say they're living with.
"The workers at this airport who work for airline contractors earn between $7 and maybe $12 or $13 an hour," said O'Brien. The group of workers were represented by 32BJ SEIU and others, including St. Petersburg Councilman Richie Floyd and Candidate for Florida State Senate District 24, Eunic Ortiz. Protesters held a "No Thanksgiving" dinner, which was a table with empty plates on the sidewalk of the main terminal representing what workers are calling starvation wages.
"I help elderly and disabled passengers every day and yet, I am only paid 7 per hour. What if I do not make enough tips to put dinner on the table," said Addis Abebe, a TPA worker from Ethiopia.
Airlines rely on airport contractors to provide key services like baggage handlers, wheelchair agents, and other positions. Workers say competitive contract bidding has resulted in plummeting wages and disappearing benefits.
"We are demanding that Tampa Airport invest in their workers," said Candidate Eunic Ortiz.
Tampa International Airport responded in a statement saying, "The SEIU does not represent employees who work for the HCAA which operates Tampa International Airport. The union does represent some employees who work for tenants that do business at the airport."
Other protestors called on the state to step in.
"During the pandemic, airlines got 54 billion dollars in taxpayer bailout, and all we got were these lousy jobs," said O'Brien. "The solution: the state government, Florida, the governor and the state legislature can take a step to fix it."
CW44 also reached out to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' office and we're currently waiting to hear back.
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