Refusing To Be Invisible and Demanding Respect: Logan Airport Workers Fight for a Living Wage

June 15, 2017

The workers at Logan airport are invisible to most of us. In our frantic rush to catch a flight, it’s all too easy to take these men and women for granted. But it’s precisely because they are ignored that it’s been possible for the airline industry to treat them with contempt for so long. An obscenely low wage barely allows these workers to meet basic needs, like providing food, shelter, and health care for themselves and their families. And sometimes they aren’t even paid minimum wage. These human beings are invisible to too many of us, treated more like tools than professionals.

But these workers are not staying silent. They refuse to be invisible and are demanding the respect they deserve. They have been fighting for decent wages and benefits for years, and on June 15, 2017, SEIU32BJ led a rally to show solidarity with not only union workers at Logan, but the many workers who have no union at all.

How is it possible, though, that some workers at Logan could have union representation while others have none? Khalida, a member of SEIU32BJ involved with community strategic partnership, explained that the workforce at Logan is fragmented, with different workers in different positions having different contracts.

The result of this convoluted system is that some workers are treated horribly while others have the distinction of being treated even more horribly.

One of the most jarring aspects of this situation is that these workers do not serve a trivial function in society. Rather, they play a vital role in protecting all of us. Khalida emphasized they are our, “eyes and ears” and “the first line of defense.” Tragedies are prevented because of these workers and yet they are treated as disposable cogs in a machine.

This particular event started at approximately 3:30 am, when brave strikers began picketing. They were removed by state police (despite having a permit) but were undeterred. Picketing continued around the airport until everyone met in Boston Memorial Park for the rally.

The rally was attended by upwards of fifty or sixty people who listened to a diverse set of speakers, including members of Socialist Alternative, MASSCosh, Fast Food Workers unions, SEIU32BJ, as well as Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman, Councilman Tito Jackson, and a state representative and senator.

However, the most inspiring speakers were, of course, the strikers themselves. Some had worked at Logan for one year, others for ten or more. Yet each and every one of them had experienced the unacceptable conditions we were all there to protest.

This rally was not the first event to support these strikers and it will not be the last. Speakers conceded that they faced a long fight ahead but are determined to fight for as long as it takes.

Matthew James Seidel is a post-graduate fellow at the Center for Labor Research and Education. He has worked as an adjunct English instructor for five years first in Chicago, IL and then Bloomington, IN. He has been published on TheMillions.com and maintains a book review blog at workingtitlebookshop.wordpress.com. He is currently working for Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.