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July 19, 2016

Airport workers rally ahead of DNC strike planned for next week

Union plans 'as much disruption as possible' during the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

Labor Strikes
Leapheart protest Hayden Mitman /PhillyVoice

Reverend Naomi Leapheart, of Power Metro, speaks during a Tuesday morning rally for members of the airport workers union. A planned strike from the union during the upcoming Democratic National Convention has been averted after the union and American Airlines came to an agreement, officials announced Friday, July 22.

With delegates to the Democratic National Convention set to descend on the City of Brotherly Love next week, members of the airport workers union rallied Tuesday, calling for higher wages in light of a $30 million expansion project at Philadelphia International Airport. 

Before a planned protest at the airport, members of SEIU 32BJ, a union that represents baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, janitors and security officers, gathered at Independence Mall for a solidarity rally calling for higher wages. 

"While luxury condos are being built, wages are going down," Daisy Cruz, 32BJ SEIU Mid-Atlantic director, told the gathered crowd. "While luxury hotels are being built, schools are being closed... While this city is prospering, we want to prosper, too." 

The crowd chanted "If we don't get it, shut it down" as they demanded a wage of $15 an hour. 

On Tuesday, workers and supporters reiterated their intention to strike next week, promising to cause "as much disruption as possible." The union has authorized – by an overwhelming vote of 95 percent – a strike during the convention in Philadelphia. 

"We are Philadelphia. Born and raised in Philadelphia. We raise kids in Philadelphia. We want them to have a good education. We will not be left behind," said Cruz. "We are going to do as much disruption as possible."

Cruz, however, would not discuss when the strike would be called and other details. 

"It depends, we will have to see how everything goes," she said. 

In calling for better work scheduling and higher wages, the Rev. Naomi Leapheart of Power Metro, an interfaith group trying to "bring about justice here and now," called the Philadelphia International Airport a "repackaged plantation." 

She said that because workers at the airport "don't even make enough to afford a plane ticket," they are subjected to a new form of plantation life. 

"Enough is enough. It's time to dismantle this plantation," said Leapheart. 

Before 11 a.m., the workers boarded buses headed to the airport to continue their rally. 

According to Cruz, workers at the airport will continue to protest calling for higher wages.