Houston Airport Workers March, Protest for $15 and Union During Week of Action

Press Advisory: July 30, 2019 & August 1, 2019
Media Contact: Nora Olabi | 713-742-2239 | nolabi@seiutx.org

Congressional leaders to join with workers for an end to poverty wages, demand that United Airlines and its subcontractors respect workers’ right to a union.
Some paid as little as $2.13 an hour due to being labeled as tipped workers.

HOUSTON— Houston airport workers will march and protest during a week of action starting on July 30 as part of the $15 For IAH movement to urge Houston City Council and Mayor Sylvester Turner to adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage and support unions for all airport workers in the city. (Scroll to the bottom to see our detailed itinerary for the Week of Action.)

On Tuesday, July 30, dozens of subcontracted airport workers and United kitchen and concession workers will rally at Houston City Hall and march to United Airlines’ offices at 609 Main Street in downtown Houston. On Aug. 1, workers will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with members of Houston’s Congressional delegation, including U.S. Representatives Al Green and Sylvia Garcia, during a protest at IAH to call out United Airlines for creating a race to the bottom for working standards at our airports.

Despite IAH being United’s second-busiest U.S. airport hub after Chicago, it is the only United hub where airlines get away with paying the federal minimum wage. In fact, at many top airports with the same exact airlines and contractors, workers’ pay is double what Houstonians are paid at IAH.

Subcontracted passenger service workers at IAH are paid an average of $8.54 an hour, according to a survey of more than 300 workers who are coming together to form their union with SEIU TX; the full results of the survey will be published next month. Forty-three percent of subcontracted passenger service workers are making $7.25 or as low as $2.13 an hour for those who are labeled as tipped workers. United Airlines hires these contractors, and United Airlines is ultimately responsible for the exploitation so clearly felt by Houston airport workers.

“There is a crisis of poverty in our airports because greedy airlines like United have driven down wages and standards in the industry. What were once good paying jobs that provided a pathway to the middle-class have now become jobs that trap Houstonians in a cycle of poverty. We are calling on city leaders to lift up working families and put an end to the exploitation of predominantly minority and immigrant workers at our airports,” said SEIU TX President Elsa Caballero.

Subcontracted passenger service workers airport workers like baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, dispatchers, lavatory drivers, escalator guards, skycaps and wheelchair attendants who run the day-to-day operations of the airport. These jobs used to be good paying jobs before airlines figured out how to rig the rules against workers to depress wages, strip benefits and reduce workplace standards for workers.

United Airlines kitchen workers are earning as little as $9.99 an hour–some of the lowest wages in the industry for direct airline employees.

“United Airlines is paying Houston food workers lower than it pays food workers at its other hub cities. Some of these workers are making as low as $9.99 an hour. Fifteen other hub airports in the U.S. have adopted airport minimum wages, Houston workers will not be left behind anymore,” said Willy Gonzalez, Secretary Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 23.

Houston airport workers are coming together in $15 for IAH to raise wages and workplace standards for all, starting with the city’s largest airport. $15 for IAH is a joint coalition between UNITE HERE Local 23 and SEIU Texas to create a movement around a $15 an hour minimum wage an a union at IAH airport, which is expected to benefit nearly 9,000 people. At IAH, 3,000 United Airlines kitchen and airport concession workers are represented by UNITE HERE Local 23, and thousands of subcontracted passenger service workers airport workers are joining together to form their union with SEIU TX.

###

About SEIU Texas
SEIU Texas unites more than 6,000 health care workers and janitors in Corpus Christi, El Paso and Houston who have secured better wages, benefits and working conditions through their union. Contracted municipal security officers joined together in SEIU Texas and won the first security officer union in Texas in June 2019. Most recently, subcontracted airport workers are speaking out for at least $15 an hour and the right to form a union. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

About UNITE HERE Local 23
UNITE HERE Local 23 is the hospitality workers’ union and represents over 3,000 members working in the hotel, food service, and airport industries in Houston, including 2,500 airline catering and concessions workers at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.