Last updated: 02:29 PM ET, Tue July 12 2016

Philadelphia Airport Baggage Handlers Threaten Strike During DNC

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | July 12, 2016

Philadelphia Airport Baggage Handlers Threaten Strike During DNC

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With tens of thousands of people set to arrive in Philadelphia in two weeks for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, baggage handlers at Philadelphia International Airport say they won’t rule out a strike during the July 25-28 event.

In an op-ed piece written for the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, Marcus Price, a baggage handler at Philadelphia International Airport, wrote: “My co-workers and I cannot afford to take a strike off the table. We won't stay hidden when the world is watching Philadelphia.”

A strike by baggage handlers would be devastating to the airport and almost certainly create delays. While admitting that going on strike is a last resort and certainly not financially appealing for either side, Price said he and his fellow workers would do it given the audience that would hear of their plight.

“Our treatment, wages, and conditions are a sad reflection on this city,” he wrote. “We are mostly black workers who have watched as Philadelphia's new development has helped everyone but us. We see luxury condos being built and a huge expansion of the airport. Yet we're stuck in jobs that keep us in poverty and do not allow us to provide for our families.”

READMORE: Can Europe Stop Its Frequent Airline Strikes?

Price said not only baggage handlers are involved, but workers who help passengers in wheelchairs get to their gates and clean hundreds of planes in fast turnaround time.

And while he respects other unions who have pledged not to strike during the Convention, Price said he and his fellow workers simply do not have that option.

"Philadelphia is (proudly) a union town. The stagehands putting up events for the DNC are union. The bus and taxi drivers delivering delegates to the convention are union. The police and firefighters protecting the DNC are union. The pilots and flight attendants bringing the delegates here: all union,” he wrote. “My coworkers and I are among the only group of working people with a major hand in the DNC who are not in a union. We do the jobs that used to be done by the airlines with — you guessed it — union workers. But in an effort to save a buck, the airlines have outsourced these jobs over the last 30 years to subcontractors. These subcontractors outbid each other for lucrative contracts by paying their workers as little as possible and keeping them from organizing.”

Price indicated the baggage handlers are among those fighting for a $15-an-hour wage and to be part of a union.

“The DNC should be a chance to celebrate the spirit of Philadelphia and the Democratic Party, both of which have a long history of supporting labor unions. The last things the city and the Democratic Party should showcase are poverty and labor problems at the airport,” he wrote. “Philadelphia is poised to 'Make History Again' with the DNC. The city's airport workers want to be sure this history is one we can be proud of.”


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