United Airlines is pocketing billions, and I’ve been sleeping out of my car working for them
Worker: Elijah Taylor, Wheelchair Attendant, Houston
Everyday is a struggle for survival when you’re living paycheck to paycheck like me. I work 5 to 6 days a week as a wheelchair attendant at George Bush Intercontinental Airport during the day and I drive for Uber Eats in the evenings and on weekends. I work hard, but I can’t afford a roof over my head. For the past 3 months, I’ve been sleeping in my car because I have no place to go.
I’m only paid $7.25 an hour at the airport–not the $10.39 we won this fall. Airport workers in Houston took a huge step forward in our fight for $15 and union rights on October 9 when the Mayor raised the airport minimum wage to $10.39 in 2019, $11.22 in 2020, and $12 in 2021. We won, but the airlines aren’t keeping their word.
On my pay, all I can do is survive until my next paycheck. I can’t afford to scrape together rent, let alone a deposit or application fee for an apartment. And I can’t afford to wait any longer.
This isn’t what I envisioned my life to be when I graduated high school last year. I saw myself working, going to college and building a bright future for myself. But that’s not possible at the airport if things stay as they are. We need fair wages, benefits, and a union.
We need a seat at the table to make sure airlines like United follow through with their promises. Fair pay is just the beginning. With a union, we can negotiate for things like affordable health care, sick days, and paid time off to spend with friends and family. This year, I won’t be able to visit loved ones for the holidays because I don’t get paid time off and I can’t afford to miss a day.
Houstonians at United Airlines’ second-busiest hub deserve better. We’re going to keep fighting until airlines pay the wages we were promised and we win unions for all.