Thousands of advocates representing interfaith coalition POWER gathered with city officials on Sunday at the Deliverance Evangelistic Church to fight for living wages for employees of the Philadelphia International Airport, where many passenger services jobs are outsourced to low bid subcontractors.
"We believe that the city of Philadelphia must stop promoting policies that favor the wealthy and start favoring the poor and disadvantaged," Rabbi Linda Holtzman said.
City Council in 2005 passed an ordinance guaranteeing a living wage for employees of city contractors, but airport concession workers have been inexplicably left out.
"My oldest kid wants to go to college," said wheelchair attendant Tara Russell, who works for subcontractor PrimeFlight and makes $7.25 an hour.
"Right now I'm not in a position to help him meet his dreams."
Council members and Mayor Michael Nutter have until June 30 to agree on a lease extension with US Airways – the airport's largest carrier, and one that last year announced record profits.
The currently proposed contract provides for $734 million in new capital investments. POWER is urging officials and business leaders to share the wealth.
Representatives want City Council and the administration to ensure both the airport and concession contracts mandate a first source hiring preference, employee retention policies, an employer-paid training fund, a minimum of $10.88 per hour in wages and protection for workers who wish to organize.
"Elected officials have the option to put our policy in the agreement," Rev. Cean James said. "Or continue business as usual."