Subcontractors at Philadelphia International Airport call on Congress to include them in stimulus package

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Hundreds of workers at the Philadelphia International Airport are calling on members of Congress to include them in the stimulus package. Members of the Service Employees International Union were left out of the last package.

Members of SEIU 32BJ who are subcontractors at Philadelphia International Airport say money went to American Airlines in the first stimulus package.

“One of the things we saw they did last time, they stopped laying off their own direct employees and instead laid off subcontracted workers who actually do the work for the airline. We want to make sure that our union members are included in some of that money,” said union coordinator Lance Biggs.

Members who work as cargo handlers, skycaps, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, security officers and wheelchair assistants at the airport say they do essential work without getting the health care that is critical to public and worker health and safety.

Union members say they are on the front lines, cleaning the airplane cabins. And when people get sick, they push passengers in wheelchairs without social distancing, but they are not getting regular COVID-19 testing by the airport.

There is testing at the airport, but SEIU members must pay between $70 and $100 per test.

“Our members at this point do not have health care, and they need health care, especially during this pandemic,” said union leader Daisy Cruz.

Pennsylvania State Sen. Vincent Hughes said pandemic testing should be as prolific as the virus itself. He said if you can get COVID-19 anywhere, you should be able to get tested anywhere, and it should be available for free.

The union said it has had solid support from the Philadelphia suburban congressional delegation, while support from Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey is less certain.

SEIU BJ 32 said the stimulus bill in the Senate currently does not include contracted essential airport workers, and there’s little to no accountability for how the airline stimulus money is spent, paving the way for mass layoffs of Black and immigrant airport workers at Philadelphia International.

The airlines are seeking $17 billion in taxpayer stimulus funds to keep staff employed. But the union said that does not include unionized subcontractors.