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Philadelphia Airport Employees Protest Low Wages, Unfair Labor Practices

A few hundred Philadelphia airport employees including baggage handlers, airplane cleaners and other non-union workers are on strike to protest what they describe as unfair labor practices and wages.

Workers say they’re making as little as $7.25 an hour and began picketing at Philadelphia International Airport early Thursday morning. The airport says the strike has not affected operations today.

The strikers are not unionized, but are instead employed by agencies subcontracted by airlines.

Protesters want employers, airline contractors Prospect Airport Services and PrimeFlight Airline Services, to comply with a living wage law passed last year that requires a wage of $10.88 or more per hour at city-owned facilities, TribTown News reported. Philadelphia airport employees on strike are also calling for affordable benefits and sick days.

Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize workers at Philadelphia and at other eastern airports, including Pittsburgh, Newark and Kennedy, TribTown News reported.

This isn’t the first time Philadelphia International Airport has seen picketing. Most recently in November employees rallied for the same cause.

“I’m here today because I’m a mother and a grandmother,” Onitha McKnight told CBS Local News.  “I work hard, I pay taxes, and I and my coworkers deserve a decent wage.”

Sarina Santos, a baggage handler also told CBS Local News that it’s a struggle to get by on the wage she is paid. “$7.25 is not enough money. I have four kids. I have a family,” she said.

She and others want to know why airport contractors Prospect Aviation Services and PrimeFlight Airline Services refuse to give their employees raises.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson says he isn’t sure why raises haven’t been given yet.

“We have been following up on the issue but we haven’t found out any answers as of yet,” Johnson said.

The rally is expected to move to Center City as the day progresses.

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