Airport workers hold strike to demand fair wages as Memorial Day travel beings

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte Douglas International Airport airport workers held a strike Thursday morning as Memorial Day travel begins.

It began around 5:30 a.m. with a picket line set up at the CLT arrivals level, between doors 3 and 4.

A second picket line then formed at 8 a.m. at the corner of Wilkinson Blvd. and N. Josh Birmingham Parkway.

That was then followed by a rally and press conference at 1:30 p.m. at the corner of Wilkinson Blvd. and N. Josh Birmingham Parkway.

Workers said they would be demanding that airline service providers commit to respecting, protecting, and paying airport service workers fair wages.

“Planes can’t take off without us, but I have to work three jobs so I can support my family,” said Lisoley Gutierrez, an ABM cabin cleaner who services American Airlines planes. “I leave early in the morning and don’t come back until after my kids are asleep. I’ve missed out on birthdays and family celebrations because I’m always working. We contribute to the huge profits of the airline industry; we should be paid fairly for our hard work.”

Airport workers said they make travel possible for passengers by keeping airports safe, clean, and running. However, despite their critical role in the profits that airlines and major corporations enjoy, many airport service workers must work two to three jobs to make ends meet.

Lashonda Barber told Channel 9 that she drives a trash truck for the airport. She said she works for ABM, a company whose workers provide services for airlines such as clearing planes and taking out trash.

She said her service ensures that flights can continue to take off on time.

However, ABM is the company that workers are asking to come to the table to negotiate a new union contract to raise pay.

“I ain’t even paid my mortgage this month if you want to start with that. A lot of us can’t pay bills. You’ve got people who are homeless who work here. I support my mom, who is right now fixing to go through surgery,” Barber said.

Only ten protesters were allowed outside of the terminal at a time, so workers took turns protesting, attempting to be as visible as possible to those who were traveling for Memorial Day.

Workers claimed they could no longer do their work with their current pay because of the way it’s forcing them to live.

“I ended up in a hotel. I was struggling; I used up my last money to make ends meet. And right now, I’m still struggling,” airport worker Maribel McBeath said.

Channel 9 has reached out to the airport for a statement regarding the strike. We are waiting to hear back.

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Eli Brand

Eli Brand, wsoctv.com

Eli is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

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