COUNCILMEMBER KENYATTA JOHNSON INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO PROTECT AT-RISK CONTRACTED PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT WORKERS WITH ACCESS TO HEALTH BENEFITS

In Council News, Kenyatta Johnson, News by PHL Council

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Philadelphia, PA (May 6, 2021) Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) introduced legislation in City Council today that would ensure that contracted workers at Philadelphia International Airport, also known as PHL, receive family-sustaining wages, affordable healthcare and paid sick leave.

The ordinance, known as The PHL Prevailing Wage bill, would provide specific classification of PHL workers to receive up to $15.06 per hour, an additional $4.54 hourly wage supplement to obtain health insurance and up to 56 hours of paid sick leave annually among other benefits.

“The rights of workers need to be respected in Philadelphia and I stand in support of the unions at Philadelphia International Airport,” said Johnson, whose Council district includes Philadelphia International Airport. “My colleagues in City Council have previously passed legislation that I sponsored ensuring that Philadelphia International Airport workers make a living wage. The new legislation that I have introduced, The PHL Prevailing Wage bill, will also ensure that they have meaningful access to health benefits. The workers who make the Airport one of the biggest and most profitable airports in the country shouldn’t have to worry that they could be bankrupted at any time by an illness or injury. I am confident the bill will be approved by City Council and become law as soon as possible.”

The bill would cover baggage and freight handlers and inspectors, cabin cleaners, passenger service agents, skycaps, wheelchair attendants, retail, food and beverage service workers, food preparation workers and other airport service workers employed by an airline operating under a lease with the City of Philadelphia, or by a contractor for such an airline.

The PHL Prevailing Wage bill, whose main sponsor is Councilmember Johnson, is also supported by Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilmembers Mark Squilla, Jamie Gauthier, Curtis Jones, Jr., Bobby Henon, Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Cindy Bass, Cherelle Parker, Kendra Brooks, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Helen Gym and Isaiah Thomas.

The legislation is also supported by the 32BJ SEIU and UNITE HERE, which represents thousands of union workers at Philadelphia International Airport.

If approved by City Council and signed into law by Mayor Jim Kenney, Councilmember Johnson’s PHL Prevailing Wage bill would do the following:

  • Raises airport workers’ wages: The bill would establish a prevailing wage for service workers at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), setting the rate for those airport workers to the prevailing wage rate for unarmed security officers in Philadelphia, currently $15.06 per hour and subject to annual increases. Contracted workers at PHL covered by 32BJ’s collective bargaining agreement currently earn a minimum of $13.60 per hour; airport workers employed by non-union contractors have a minimum wage of about $12.40 per hour.
  • Creates health insurance standard for airport contractors: Under the bill, airport workers would also receive an additional hourly wage supplement to allow them to obtain health insurance. The health supplement would be equivalent to the health benefit standard required under the federal Service Contract Act, currently $4.54 per hour.
  • Creates paid leave standard: Covered workers would receive a minimum of 10 paid holidays per year, a minimum paid vacation schedule of 2 weeks after 1 year of service, 3 weeks after 8 years of service, 4 weeks after 15 years, and up to 56 hours of paid sick leave annually.

“Until the City acted, Philadelphia Airport workers made the federal minimum wage or less,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President and State Director of 32BJ SEIU. “During the pandemic, airlines like American Airlines have received billions of dollars in federal aid. We know that without action on the part of the City, the airlines and their subcontracted employers would not willingly protect essential frontline workers by offering them better wages, healthcare or paid sick leave. The City of Philadelphia must act to protect these workers that risk their lives every day to protect the traveling public and one of our City’s most profitable economic engines.”

With 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country. 32BJ represents over 2,500 workers at Philadelphia International Airport, which includes cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, cargo workers, airport cleaners, airport security workers, food service workers, wheelchair assistants, skycaps, and ticket agents.

According to SEIU 32BJ, contracted frontline Philadelphia International Airport workers , who are overwhelmingly African-American, are paid as little as $12.40 per hour and often without healthcare. These workers have difficulty socially distancing from the traveling public and have worked even while exposed to COVID-19. A recent study showed that as residents of one of America’s poorest cities, Philadelphia’s essential workers were 55% more likely to contract the COVID19 virus than any other workers in Philadelphia.

“Airport workers have been risking their lives throughout this pandemic,” UNITE HERE Local 274 President Rosslyn Wuchinich said. “ They deserve healthcare that they can actually use. In most cases, the health insurance offered by their employers is completely unaffordable and therefore inaccessible for them. Councilman Johnson’s proposed legislation will make healthcare for airport workers the right that it should be, not the privilege that it is right now. We applaud the Councilman’s initiative in introducing this legislation.”

UNITE HERE is the largest hospitality and food service workers union in the country, with over 300,000 members. UNITE HERE Local 274 represents about 1,200 airline catering and airport concessions workers at Philadelphia International Airport.

If The PHL Prevailing Wage bill becomes law, it would cover all SEIU 32BJ and UNITE HERE workers.

Read the ordinance: CM Johnson Airport Prevailing Wage Ordinance

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Photo: Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson

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