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TTD Urges Paid Sick Leave for Airport Service Workers at Dulles and National Airports

By Admin

Mr. Thorn Pozen, Chairperson
Board of Directors
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
1 Aviation Circle
Washington, D.C. 20001

July 8, 2024

Dear Mr. Pozen,

On behalf of our affiliated unions, which represent hundreds of thousands of workers across the transportation industry, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) urges the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to require 56 hours of paid sick leave for all airport service workers at Reagan National and Dulles International Airports, including those currently covered by collective bargaining agreements.

TTD represents 37 unions comprising of members who build, operate, maintain, and service the transportation infrastructure that our country runs on. Many of our members work at MWAA airports or service the aircraft that pass through them.

We urge MWAA to commit to the health of workers and passengers alike and ensure that all airport service workers can care for themselves and their loved ones when ill without foregoing wages. It is safe to assume that without a requirement from MWAA on paid sick days, most employers will not provide this benefit voluntarily, reasonably fearing a competitive disadvantage in doing so. If employers do not provide paid sick leave, workers must make the hard choice of foregoing wages when sick to protect their coworkers and the public from transmission or prioritizing their income at the cost of others. For workers supporting a family on only $16 an hour—the minimum wage at MWAA airports—there may not be a choice at all.

Airports are among the locations with a high risk of transmission for viruses like COVID-19, due to the close, indoor gathering and a high concentration of people traveling from all over the world.[i] Across America, airport service workers were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, risking their lives and those of their families to ensure that our country and economy could stay up and running. As we recover from the pandemic, the denial of paid sick leave is not only a grave disservice to this workforce that has sacrificed immensely, but also to the flying public, who continue to face a needlessly heightened risk of contracting illness when flying because the airport workforce may not be healthy.

Airport service workers are crucial in the safe and efficient operation of our aviation systems. However, without basic benefits like paid sick leave, they are unlikely to stay at these jobs long enough to develop the skills and experience that ensure excellence. The high turnover rate due to poor job standards creates service and security concerns for the public. Research has shown that poor compensation at airports increases turnover, which can decrease security.[ii]  Therefore, paid sick leave is not just a benefit, but a necessity for worker retention and public safety.

In addition to servicing airport infrastructure and facilitating the safe and secure transport of cargo, airport service workers also ensure that each passenger who is welcomed into Reagan National and Dulles International Airports is treated with dignity, respect, and a high level of customer care. These workers also deserve fundamental dignity and respect, including the ability to care for themselves and their loved ones when sick without facing financial hardship.

We urge you to commit to the health of this workforce and the traveling public by requiring the provision of 56 hours of paid leave for all airport service workers at Reagan National and Dulles International Airports. For the benefits of this policy to be fully realized, it is also critical that it be extended across the workforce without any carve outs, including to workers covered by collective bargaining agreements. This will ensure fair competition between contractors and will maximize the policy’s public health benefits. Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,

Greg Regan
President
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

[i] Yang, Xueze, Zhiyang Dou, Yuqing Ding, Boni Su, Hua Qian, and Nan Zhang. “Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in airports based on real human close contact behaviors.” Journal of Building Engineering 82 (2024): 108299. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352710223024828 see paragraph 2 of intro

[ii] Gallear, Amanda. “The Impact of Wages and Turnover on Security and Safety in Airport.” UC Berkeley Labor Center. October 18, 2017. https://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/pdf/2017/SFO-literature-review.pdf

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