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Airport Workers Call Job Conditions Dangerous, Unsafe

Subcontracted airport service workers in Miami are speaking out about what they call dangerous working conditions. (DMedina/morguefile)
Subcontracted airport service workers in Miami are speaking out about what they call dangerous working conditions. (DMedina/morguefile)
June 17, 2016

MIAMI -- Thousands of people travel through Miami International Airport each day, but some airport workers say their working conditions are putting both airline passengers and workers at risk.

The airport, which is owned and operated by the Miami-Dade County Commission, contracts with five companies that provide passenger and ground services to the airlines. More than 5,000 people work in low-wage, part-time positions as baggage handlers, aircraft cleaners and ramp workers, and Helene O'Brien, Florida director of the Service Employees International Union 32 BJ, said many of them believe they aren't being treated fairly on the job.

"It's in everyone's interest -- it's in not only the workers' interest, it's in the flying public's interest - that airports are operated to a high standard," she said, "and that service providers follow the law with their workers as well as with the public."

The workers, who currently are not part of any union, testified before the county commission this week, alleging violations in the living-wage law, overtime issues and health and safety concerns. Several commissioners have called on the county aviation director to look into enforcing and strengthening existing regulations.

In today's heightened security climate, O'Brien said, airport work is all the more demanding and challenging.

"We all saw what happened in Brussels," she said. "These are service workers, people who work at the airport every day, and who are often front-line personnel -- and for them to not get a paid sick day, for them to be having money not paid, is just shocking."

In years past, most of these jobs were performed by airline employees, she said, but today that work has been outsourced.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL