On Monday, September 15, workers at the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport (MSP), backed by dozens of community supporters, delivered 1,000 petitions signed by their coworkers to the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC) calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage. This action, led by workers organized in 15 Now, marked the public launch of a major new front in the fight for $15.
The campaign at MSP airport emerges less than two weeks after the first major fast-food workers strike in Minnesota and amid public discussion among city councilors about $15 and hour in Minneapolis. But as the victory for $15 an hour in Seattle showed, winning a strong $15 will require escalating pressure from a grassroots movement. Winning $15 at the airport would build momentum to win in the City of Minneapolis, similar to how the win at Sea-Tac airport inspired the launch of 15 Now and the victory in Seattle.
Over the past decade, wages at the airport have been slashed and well-paid jobs have been outsourced to the lowest bidder. “This is a part of a nationwide struggle for $15. The fast-food strikes raised expectations, then Seattle workers showed it could be won. Now it’s our turn,” explained Kip Hedges, a Delta baggage handler who helped to launch the 15 Now airport campaign.
Airport workers in St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have won a $15/hr minimum wage. (Labor Notes, 11/15/13). Just days after workers demanded $15 at the MAC, service agents in the merged American Airlines and US Airways voted to unionize with CWA-IBT, winning with 86% support.
Thousands of workers at the MSP airport make poverty wages. Delta, the largest employer at MSP, recorded $2.3 billion in profit in 2013. Some workers are paid as little as $8 an hour to clean Delta’s planes while Delta CEO Richard Anderson made $14 million in 2013, a ridiculous $7,000/ hour.
The Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC), which governs all airport activity and commerce, is run by a board of 15 commissioners appointed by Governor Mark Dayton, as well as the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, all considered liberal Democrats. At the airport and in the wider Twin Cities, the politicians preside over very sharp racial and economic divides.
To win at the airport, we will need to build pressure on politicians to act. A full victory for $15 will require building a powerful movement of workers and community supporters, with organized labor throwing its full weight behind the campaign.
But the huge support in the Twin Cities for the fight of airport workers and 15 Now is bringing together a growing movement of campaigners with a number of union locals declaring their support for 15 Now, including Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005, Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local 1833, the state councils of IAM and the AFL-CIO. The pressure on the politicians, Delta and other corporations to concede a basic living wage is building.