This afternoon, after a morning of negotiations during which it was still uncertain whether or not American Airlines would be allowed to undermine the Living Wage Standard that we won last May, a lease was approved that keeps the $12/hr minimum wage for subcontracted workers completely in tact.
Not only that — American Airlines agreed to encourage its subcontractors to abide by it and respect the rights of workers to organize into unions.
Take a moment to send an email to members of City Council to THANK THEM for their moral leadership today, standing by the voters and keeping our Airport on the path towards being a place of opportunity for Philadelphians, not just wealthy airlines. Click here to send an email now.
It was the visits, calls, and emails from people of faith — you — that made the definitive difference in what happened today. We have been told both by members of Council and our union allies that without our moral voice – especially praying for Council people in person, the living wage standard easily could have been gutted, shutting workers work from being a part of the expanded opportunity that the airport will bring into our city.
Instead, after we prayed with members of Council on Tuesday, kept calling and emailing them throughout the week, and raised up our voice on social media, we made gain after gain. By this afternoon, representatives from SEIU 32BJ were at the same table with American Airlines executives and the City, and reached an agreement that was in the interest of all parties.
Let me say that another way: with pressure coming at them from all angles to do otherwise, the City and a major multinational corporation respected the will of mostly poor, black and brown workers who never before have had a say in their destiny at work. When this sunk in for me, I cried. I knew it was our faith that made it happen. Who can say prayer isn’t powerful?
Just 2 years ago, airlines wouldn’t even sit down with a union at the airport. The commitment from American Airlines to make sure its subcontractors follow the living wage will mean that finally, the last firms holding out will need to pay their workers $12/hr when the lease renews on July 1. It means that Philly is now a model example for the nation for having a fully enforced Living Wage & Benefits Standard. Workers are on track to get recognized in unions, their wages are tied to inflation, and they will receive 150% of the federal minimum wage if it increases in upcoming years.
All the work is not done yet. Workers still aren’t in a union. SEIU 32BJ and UNITE HERE are both working hard with workers to organize so that the Airport will be a place for good jobs for Philadelphians for the long term, and we will continue to support their efforts.
But we should savor this victory today — and know that the faith we hold dear has made a real and visible difference in the life of thousands of our neighbors this week, and for our city’s future. Thank you, brothers and sisters. Click here to say thanks to City Council members too.
In God’s Hands,
Rev. Gregory Holston
Co-Chair of Economic Dignity Team
POWER: An Interfaith Movement