Thursday afternoon, a group of 12 POWER Clergy and staff, including your pastor Michael, went with a displaced wheelchair attendant to speak with American Airlines corporate leadership and deliver a letter.
LaQwanda, the wheelchair attendant, was dismissed from her job on Wednesday for taking part in a work stoppage earlier in the week. The workers held a stoppage because of low pay and poor working conditions including intimidation and shortening or changing shifts at the last minute. Her employer, Prospect, is a contractor for American Airlines.
We went to ask American Airlines why they would continue to employ contractors that treated their workers so poorly. As Clergy who lead congregations that include these underpaid workers, we know the toll such injustice takes. And our churches — they too are employers and managers. If we hire a contractor that does not treat its workers correctly, or the members of the congregation well, we fire them. We wanted to ask American Airlines to do the same.
American Airlines sent a representative out into the hall where we were praying and singing, to tell us they would not meet with us. This woman actually ran away from Cecily, our lead organizer. American Airlines wanted to quickly to dismiss us from the airport. But we refused to leave until we met with someone in authority.
Our colleagues quickly came up with a plan to stage a sit-in right in front of the security check-in at Terminal B, unless American Airlines responded. They refused even after the Chief Inspector of the Philadelphia Police Department called them and suggested they meet with us. American Airlines refused to meet so we refused to leave; as a result 10 of us were arrested.
Emboldened by our courage, workers from the airport watched as we were paraded in handcuffs through two terminals and along the drop-off areas of the airport to the police station. The workers are fighting back and asking for our ongoing support.
On this Sunday afternoon they are asking members of POWER to support them as they walk off the job. Hundreds of workers will leave their jobs in response to the treatment they are receiving from the management of their companies.
This weekend, I am asking you to do one or more of the following:
~ Please lift up the workers for prayer during your weekend services.
~ Join the workers at 2 pm, as they leave work on the Terminal B/C Arrivals across from Short Term Parking.
Encourage members of your congregation to join you.
This action is part of our ongoing Economic Dignity Campaign within POWER. Helping get the $12/hour referendum passed was a big win, but it was just the first step. Now we must finish the job and help ensure that workers can have the choice to form a union, can be free from intimidation and can have security and dignity on the job.
Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director
(A note from Michael: I have a conflict, a pre-existing engagement on Sunday afternoon, but would love to know that other Old Firsters will be there representing our church…