Baggage Workers Protest Low Wages and Tipping Policy at Fort Lauderdale Airport
The more than $1 billion in economic activity that the expansion at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is expected to generate will certainly make airline and airport executives and contractors a bit more wealthy. But Some of the baggage workers feel a bit left out which is why they are staging a silent protest this evening at the Delta Airlines terminal with taped mouths.
Workers from Baggage Airline Guest Services, Inc., a contractor for Delta Airlines, say that the wages they earn, which ranges from $4.77 to $7.79 an hour, are not enough to maintain a living in South Florida.
They say the company is retaliating against them my imposing a policy of reporting at least $25 of their daily tip-out, even if they haven't earned that much.
The workers filed a charge against BAGS, Inc. with the National Labor Relations Board, which is investigating. Their complaints include not enough hours worked to not being able to afford basic health care.
Broward County Commissioner Martin David Kiar recently volunteered to live on minimum wage for a week and he found it to be pretty difficult to meet basic needs. To put it into perspective, Klar spent most of the week riding the bus to avoid gas expenses and only had just over $100 to spend on groceries, which is what a min. wage worker is left with to feed a family of four, according to Kiar.
Most of the workers include immigrants from Haiti and elsewhere and will be joined by several other members of the community, said Muhammed Malik, a South Florida activist helping to organize the workers. Malik has done work in the past in support of worker's rights and civil rights issues in the past, including working with the Occupy movement in Miami.
"It's just another story of how the workers continue to struggle," Malik says. "They are low wage workers and they are immigrant workers.
Malik says the workers ought to be paid a living wage, which would be enough to cover food, housing, clothing, health care, incidentals, and at the very least, minimal recreation.
At its height in 1968, minimum wage was the equivalent of almost $10.50 per hour in today's economy. Last January minimum wage in Florida went up 13 cents, from $7.67 to $7.79 per hour.
Several other people will be joining the protest, including members of Organize Now, an Orlando-based grassroots community organization. They will begin at 5 p.m. at the lower level of Terminal 2 at the airport.