WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--This year, major U.S. airlines gave employees, including pilots, flight attendants and technicians, over $2.7 billion in bonuses, a well-deserved share of another year of record industry profits. Yet, at Reagan National and Dulles International Airports, workers at companies supplying airplane meals for these same airlines are paid as low as $8.55 per hour. That is far below the D.C. minimum wage rate across the river, which will rise to $15 by 2020, and the airports’ current $14.27 living wage rate.
On Wednesday, airline catering workers will march from Ronald Reagan National Airport to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, in Washington, D.C., to propel their call for equality.
Outside the capital, workers will call for pay equity in 10 additional cities this week, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and Seattle. Caterers for United, American and Delta in many of these cities do not pay wages on par with area minimum wages or established living wage standards for other airport workers, causing these employees to earn thousands of dollars less than other minimum-wage workers nearby.
“I work right across the river from D.C., so I will make thousands of dollars less each year to support my family,” said catering worker Nelson Robinson. “My work helps the airlines make so much money, yet I can barely scrape by. To me, that is not right. That is why my co-workers and I are coming together to demand one simple thing: equality.”
The demand is resonating nationwide.
At O’Hare International Airport, United Airlines switched to a catering kitchen just outside of Chicago shortly after the City increased its minimum wage. Many catering workers there now earn below Chicago’s minimum wage and more than $3 below the hourly wage required for some airport workers.
In Philadelphia, workers who cater American Airlines are paid $4.20 less per hour than the airport living wage, adding up to annual losses of more than $8,700 for full-time employees. On April 4, 49 years after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while supporting striking Black sanitation workers, these airline catering and other airport workers spoke out for wage equality and racial justice.
Meanwhile, the City of Seattle concluded that current and former workers at a kitchen serving airline and retail clients are owed a total of $319,533.39 due to violations of a local minimum wage law. Despite the order issued by the City of Seattle, workers have not received their money, and the employer has appealed.
The workers’ demand for equality comes as airlines have enjoyed record profits in recent years, and many other employees have seen significant wage increases. In December 2016, Delta’s pilots received a 30% raise over four years, while United’s flight attendants agreed to a contract that raises top pay rates by as much as 31%. 85% of workers for the largest airline caterer earn less than $15 per hour.