While pressing for further action on Beacon Hill, airport workers in Boston plan to risk arrest on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as part of their push for a $15 hourly wage and union rights.
According to Massachusetts-32BJ SEIU, a union with 18,000 members in the Bay State, workers plan to gather at 11:30 a.m. at East Boston Memorial Park and march to Terminal E at Logan Airport.
"If Dr. King were alive today he would stand with airport workers like me who are fighting for dignity and a living wage so we can support our families," Karl Celis, a Logan baggage handler, said in a statement released Monday by the union. "Today, at Logan and airports across the country, we carry Dr. King's torch of justice forward."
The union says baggage handlers, terminal and cabin cleaners, skycaps, wheelchair agents, customer service agents, and security officers and ramp workers are helping generate profits for the bustling aviation industry while struggling to make fiscal ends meet themselves and relying on public assistance programs to support their families.
On Jan. 1, the Massachusetts minimum wage rose to a nation-leading $10 an hour, under legislation approved in 2014. The last of three $1 increases under that law - to $11 - is set for Jan. 1, 2017.
Legislation (S 1024) that would ramp up the minimum hourly wage for major big-box and fast-food retailers to $15 by Jan. 1, 2018 cleared the Labor and Workforce Development Committee in November and remains before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The bill was backed by Labor Committee co-chairs Sen. Dan Wolf of Harwich and Rep. John Scibak, a South Hadley Democrat. At a rally just after the November vote, Wolf told workers, "This is a national movement and it will rearrange our economy and make it a fair economy that shares prosperity for all, that grows an economy from minimum wage up, from the middle class out and from fair taxation down."
House Speaker Robert DeLeo last year expressed doubt about the House revisiting wage legislation after passing the minimum wage hike legislation in 2014. "We had addressed this issue last year, so we addressed that and we addressed the area of unemployment insurance and a whole host of other things so I don't see us taking it up this year," DeLeo told reporters in October.
Similar civil disobedience efforts are planned Monday by airport workers in nine other cities - Chicago, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington D.C., Seattle, and Portland.
According to organizers of Monday's activities, groups behind the effort in Boston include the Boston Teachers Union, 350.org, the North Shore Labor Council, Jewish Labor Committee, and the NAACP