Open Media Boston
Just over a week since meeting with Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo and the Council’s Committee on Labor, Youth Affairs and Human Rights - who called upon the Massachusetts Port Authority to establish a living wage for contract workers - Service Employees International Union Local 615, the North Shore Labor Council, OccupyBoston activists and a number of community organizations mobilized workers to share stories about threats from employers and unfair penalties doled out by managers.
“My daughter was running a fever of 104, and I had to leave her in the house. I was worried sick, because I couldn’t call, because when you call you don’t get paid for that day,” said Kettly Dehoux, and airport security employee.
SEIU represents union members employed by contractors at Logan Airport who oversee building maintenance, car rentals, wheelchair transport, security and baggage handling. After September 11, 2001, criticism of security procedures at Logan cast a spotlight on the working conditions of employees hired by airport contractors, exposing poor training, high turnover, difficult working conditions and low wages. Yet ten years later, employees say working conditions - and wages still hovering at $7.50 an hour - have not improved.
SEIU Local 615 president Rocio Saenz believes mobilizing employees to demand some respect is where to begin helping workers achieve change.
“Nobody should be in a situation that is exploitative,” she said, “the course of action is to empower. When they come together with their coworkers, despite the threats and sometimes the retaliation they get for speaking up, they are moving their community. They have the answer in their hands.”
Saenz says she is glad for the OccupyBoston movement that continues in Boston’s Dewey Square.
“We all have the Occupy movement in our hearts. This is the same struggle about fighting for a just society and an economy that works for everyone, not just for the few,” she said.
Ermani DeAravjo attended Tuesday’s meeting as a representative of Mayor Thomas Menino. He said the mayor supports the workers’ demands and has been a long-time supporter of instituting a living wage for airport employees.