Airlines: Show Us You Believe Black Lives Matter

Airlines: Show Us You Believe Black Lives Matter

I’ve seen a lot in my 69 years and I have some advice for the decision-makers in our government and big corporations: show us you believe Black lives matter.

When I hear about the recent murders of Black men by police, I’m reminded of growing up in the 1950’s and having to fight to be able to eat in the same places as white people. I remember having to enter through the back door just to shop at department stores.

I’ve had enough. That’s why on July 20, I’m taking action with thousands of people across the country in a Strike for Black Lives. People are dying at the hands of police and from COVID-19. We don’t have time for empty words.

You can still see the effects of racism in my life and the lives of people of color everywhere. The Black and Latino community is the hardest hit by COVID-19 in Harris County. This is what years of discrimination does to people—from jobs and education to health care and policing. It’s a perfect storm.

Frontline essential workers can’t work from home. We have stayed on the job through the pandemic to keep our city running, including places like Hobby Airport where I’m a contracted security officer. I’m risking myself to keep others safe, but I’m underpaid—even though the airlines were bailed out with our public dollars.

It may come in different forms today, but the disrespect I experienced years ago is still there. Let’s take a look at my job in the airline industry. Airlines say Black lives matter, but you don’t see people like me in the boardroom. The people who look like me are doing the lowest paid jobs—as low as $2.13 an hour for United Airlines’ sky caps in Houston. Somehow, in the year 2020, that is still legal.

Airlines are playing with our lives just to make more money. When airport workers test positive for COVID-19, our employers don’t tell us about it and don’t encourage us to get tested. That’s just crazy to me. I’m out here working in a pandemic and I don’t even have sick time.

In Houston of all places, airlines need to take their job not just to connect people – but to protect people – very seriously. We keep hitting new records of cases, our hospitals are full, and frontline workers are stretched to the limit.

Airlines and the elected officials who bailed them out can show us that Black lives matter by making sure all airport workers have paid sick days, essential pay that matches the risk we’re taking, and PPE to protect ourselves. We deserve a seat in those boardrooms and a say in our wages, benefits, and safety standards.

It has to start with respect. Young or old, Black or white, Latino or Asian – all of us want to be treated with respect. I have hope that things will change if we keep speaking out. I see more people getting involved today and I see a younger generation that believes in basic human rights. When people see that our freedom depends on our neighbors, we will have justice for people of all races and backgrounds.

-Mercedes Taylor, Airport Worker