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Denver Airport Workers Win $15 an Hour

March 12, 2019

Denver, CO, March 11, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- More than 6,000 baggage handlers, catering workers, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants and others won a $15 an hour minimum wage at Denver International Airport (DEN), the nation’s 5th largest airport, after coming together, rallying, and speaking out for a living wage. Mayor Hancock and City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that raises wages to $15 an hour by 2021 for city workers, contractors, and subcontractors working at city facilities like the airport.Fed up with major airlines like United benefiting from billions in taxpayer dollars, while boosting profits by holding down working peoples’ wages, airport workers in SEIU and UNITE HERE urged City Council to hold airlines accountable to Denver communities and their calls were heard loud and clear. The first raise to $13 an hour will go into effect this July 1, which is a 17% increase for those paid the minimum wage of $11.10 an hour.“For me, $15 isn’t just money, it’s an acknowledgement of my dignity,” says Teresita Felix, a United Airlines Catering Worker at DEN. “I’m not just fighting for me, I’m fighting for my daughter, my whole family, immigrant families at the airport, and all working people in our city. This raise will help me afford an apartment in Denver.”A recent poll of Colorado voters showed 49% are struggling financially. And with housing costs skyrocketing, someone making the minimum wage has to work

78 hours a week to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in Denver. Airport workers are proving in Colorado and across the nation that there is a solution. When working people come together to elect leaders who put people first—whether white, Black or brown, native-born or newcomer—they can win the raises we all need for our families and communities.“I recently paid $900 for one of my daughters to get just one book. She wants to be a doctor,” says Tagelsir Mohamed, a Wheelchair Attendant and Security Officer at DEN. “That’s why I spoke out at City Hall and joined with my coworkers until we won. Once I earn $15, I will be able to work one job. I plan to spend more time with my youngest daughter and get her ready to follow her older sister’s footsteps and attend college. Finally, I will be able to spend more time with my wife.”More than 2,000 airport workers in Denver have already joined SEIU and UNITE HERE and thousands more are vowing to keep speaking out until they win the freedom to form a union so they can collectively negotiate over job security, healthcare, and paid time off—all the things that make family life possible.“The airline industry is reaping record profits, but the workers who serve food for the airlines have been struggling to even survive.” says D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE. “That’s why airline workers across North America are rising up. Tonight in Denver, airline catering workers won a living wage for themselves and their communities – and now UNITE HERE is taking the fight to the bargaining table and to the streets of more cities. One job should be enough.”Airport workers have been fighting for raises and union rights—and winning—all across the country. Just last fall, 40,000 airport workers won $19/hour by 2023 in New York and New Jersey and thousands more won $17.50 at SFO. Already this year, pay for Portland Passenger Service Assistants went up to $15 an hour.Contracted airport workers have won raises at all but one of United Airlines’ U.S. hubs. Inspired by these successes, airport workers in Detroit, Minneapolis, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston—the one remaining United Airlines hub—are fighting for $15 an hour and union rights as their movement continues to grow.“More than 24 million working Americans have won $70 billion in raises since fast food cooks and cashiers in New York went on strike in 2012 to start the Fight for $15 and a Union. They created a movement that shows how working people can stick together to use our power as voters to push forward-thinking elected representatives to lift the wage floor. The next step is to empower more working people to join unions, no matter where they work, so more people can have a say about the future of their jobs and their community,” says Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU.This latest victory for $15 an hour comes as working people in the U.S. are increasingly realizing their power—from teachers and fast food workers to flight attendants, TSA workers, and air traffic controllers. Last year, nearly half a million U.S. workers went on strike— a record number.

UNITE HERE represents over 35,000 airport concessions and airline catering workers at 51 airports in the United States. This year, 20,000 airline food workers are joining together in national negotiations for higher wages and to demand that one job should be enough to pay the bills and raise a family.Contracted airport workers around the country are coming together in Airport Workers United to raise their voices for fair wages and union rights. By sticking together, speaking out, and going on strike 30,000 airport workers have joined SEIU and 126,000 have won raises or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave, and job protections.###

Leslie Mendoza Kamstra SEIU 3173971585 leslie.kamstra@seiu.org

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