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Airport Service Personnel: Not So Thankful this Thanksgiving

Photo: Edson Jocelyn and his family. Courtesy SEIU 32BJ
Photo: Edson Jocelyn and his family. Courtesy SEIU 32BJ
November 19, 2012

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Florida airports will be bustling this week with travelers headed home for the holidays. Fort Lauderdale International Airport ranks in the top ten busiest in the country during the Thanksgiving holiday. While many of those travelers spent hundreds of dollars for their tickets, passenger assistance employees like Edson Jocelyn are making a small fraction of that, $4.65 an hour plus tips.

"That kind of money that we get paid can't support our families at all, can't do nothing, and sometimes don't even make $30 for the day or even $20."

An immigrant from Haiti and father of three, Jocelyn commutes two hours each way to work by bus because he says he can't afford a car.

Today, passenger service workers will have a peaceful protest at the airport to try to encourage airline contractors to pay their employees a living wage.

Eric Brakken is the director of the Florida union SEIU 32BJ. He says people like Jocelyn are an important part of providing a positive traveling experience and should be compensated.

"They provide critical services throughout the year, cleaning the terminals, pushing wheelchairs, handling baggage, so that airports like Fort Lauderdale International Airport are safe and secure."

Jocelyn says he is one of hundreds in the same situation, trying to make enough money to support their families. He says that up to this point his employer has not listened to his or his coworkers' complaints.

"When we sit together, it's like we have, you have the same story, and all of the employers have the same thing to say when we say, 'How we going to get help with that?,' they say 'Take it or leave it.'"

Jocelyn is asking people to sign a petition for the Broward County government to step in and make sure people such as passenger assistants, baggage handlers, janitors and others are paid a living wage.

View the petition at Change.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - FL