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Sea-Tac baggage handlers and cabin cleaners sign union cards

Working Washington

(Editor's note May 23, 2013: Corrects to clarify that workers have signed cards to join unions but haven't been recognized as unions by their employers. Until they're recognized, they don't have legal status as collective bargaining units.)

After a year of agitating over working conditions, more than 1,000 workers at Sea-Tac Airport say they have now signed cards to join unions.

The involved workers load and unload baggage, push wheelchairs and clean airplane cabins, among other jobs. They are employed by five companies: Menzies Aviation, BAGS Inc., Delta Global Services, AirServ and GCA.

Most of them have now joined the Service Employees International Union, and one group, the GCA workers, has joined the Teamsters. The workers have complained over the past year of unsafe conditions and what they call poverty wages.

Spencer Havens works for Menzies as a baggage handler. He oversees three other workers and makes about $12 an hour. He says many of the people start out making $10.25 an hour.

"A lot of people with the wages now, they’re barely scraping by," Havens said. "Some people have to do overtime just to make it through the week because they’re supporting families."

Havens says he’s concerned about his own ability to get by. He’s getting married in a few months, and his future wife has a number of health issues.

Havens and other workers marched to the companies to deliver letters saying they’ve signed union cards and asking their employers to negotiate. They also delivered a letter to Alaska Air Group, saying the company should put pressure on its contractors to raise wages.

An Alaska Air spokeswoman declined to comment, saying this is a matter for the employers and workers to sort out. A Menzies spokesman and a Delta Global Services spokesman also had no comment. Officials from the other companies didn't respond to requests for comment.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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