The ballots have been counted by the National Labor Relations Board, and the results are official: hundreds of Sea-Tac Airport workers have won a union — the latest victory by airport workers organizing to rise up out of poverty wages and lift their community.
“My co-workers and I voted for the union because we deserve to have good jobs,” says Jennifer Keni, an employee at Bags, Inc. and new union member. “When we come together we can make positive changes that lift us all up.”
The vote by workers at Bags, Inc. to join SEIU Local 6 unites more than two hundred workers who are contracted by Alaska Air Group to provide wheelchair and other passenger services for Alaska customers. Like thousands of other poverty-wage workers at our airport, they have been on the leading edge of the movement for $15 an hour and good jobs — and on the leading edge of pushback by the giant airport corporations.
Bags, Inc. itself contributed $10,000 to the losing effort to defeat SeaTac Proposition 1, the Good Jobs Initiative. After Proposition 1 passed, Alaska Airlines — which hires Bags, Inc. to serve its customers — has tried to block its implementation, suing all the way to the State Supreme Court. But Bags workers continued to organize, winning a union in yesterday’s NLRB election.
“Corporations are using their power to push down wages and benefits for workers,” says SEIU Local 6 President Sergio Salinas. Bags, Inc. workers typically work part-time and earn just sixty-eight cents above the minimum wage. These depressed wages make it hard for families to afford the basics, and also slow down the economy because workers cannot afford to maintain basic spending levels. “Today workers have decided to use their power to improve not just their lives but also the local economy,” says Salinas.
Immediately after the votes were counted, Bags workers began signing on to a letter to their employer calling for contract negotiations to take place right away. Union members say they expect management to adhere to Alaska Airlines’ Vendor Code of Labor Standards. Alaska adopted the standards last July, after labor and community groups urged Alaska to take a leadership role in improving working conditions at the airport. The code, to which all vendors must comply or risk losing the business, includes a provision stating that: “Vendor shall respect their employees’ freedom of association and their right to engage in collective bargaining.”