Central Arizona: CASE's Historic Airport Jobs Campaign

March 30, 2010 -- Central Arizonans for a Sustainable...

by Brendan Walsh, CASE Executive Director 

In the last several months, CASE has kicked off a pair of jobs campaigns in the city of Phoenix. The more advanced of those campaigns surrounds the job security of between 700 and 1,000 workers in food service, parking, and ground transportation at Sky Harbor Airport. Represented by our partner unions UNITE HERE! Local 631 and UFCW Local 99, those workers have struggled for years to raise the quality of their jobs—winning improvements in wages and health insurance, along with health and safety measures like floor mats for workers who stand on concrete for eight hours a day, forty hours a week. In doing so, those workers have raised the floor for all of the approximately 4,000 terminal service workers at the airport.

At the moment, however, both groups of workers—food service and parking—face the very real prospect of losing their hard-won benefits and, indeed, even their jobs, as their employers’ contracts with the City of Phoenix Aviation Department are expiring, and a process is being prepared for new companies to compete for those contracts. Should new companies win those contracts, they have no obligation at all to rehire the current workers or maintain their current level of benefits. In fact, recent experience in cities like Baltimore and Tucson indicate that many of the current workers are likely to be left out in the cold should a new employer take over the food and beverage and parking concessions. Given the fact that so many of these workers come from metropolitan Phoenix’s most disadvantaged communities (nearly 70%, for instance, of the food and beverage workers are people of color, 25% coming from Phoenix’s African refugee communities), such an event would have disastrous consequences for our city.

With that in mind, CASE has built a network of neighborhood association leaders from the areas around the airport, religious leaders, university students, supportive elected officials, and union members to insist that the City of Phoenix’s Aviation Department include in their Requests for Proposals for the new food and beverage and parking contracts language that will protect the jobs of the current workers. Such language would be the first of its kind for hospitality and parking workers contracted by the City of Phoenix. The City of Phoenix has the ability to ensure that companies doing business with the Airport comply with certain standards of fairness to their employees. Our goal in community meetings, leadership trainings, and meetings with Aviation Department and City officials is to ensure that the City begins to form a more active partnership with the community of working people who live in the city to create quality jobs with security, respect and decent wages and benefits.

As the campaign is currently in full swing, the results are still hanging in the balance. With the continued support of our leaders in the community and at the airport workplaces, though, we are confident that we will achieve an historic victory for the working people of metropolitan Phoenix!