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Airport workers' union strikes deal with airline

The union that represents the city’s airport workers struck a deal for contract negotiations with the help of the city.
Mayor Jim Kenney announced an agreement between airport workers and American Airlines and their contractors on Tuesday. (Hayden Mitman)

After years of protests and unrest, 32BJ SEIU, the union that represents service industry employees, including low-wage workers in fast food, healthcare and airport services, has struck a long-awaited deal between the union, American Airlines and its contractors.

On Tuesday at City Hall, city representatives, members of the union and airline employees announced a collective bargaining agreement that, union representatives said, would provide a path forward to contract negotiations that could include better wages and more secure jobs.

“Folks at the airport … should not be struggling to get by,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, noting that the city’s airport is one of the region’s biggest economic engines.

A similar deal was in place last year after workers in the union held a strike during the Democratic National Convention. That deal would have secured an effort to push for workers to get basic health benefits, paid sick days and the ability to negotiate for better wages.

But, after the election of President Donald Trump, union representatives said that deal fell through.

However, 32BJ SEIU Vice President Gabe Morgan said that Tuesday’s agreement restores what they had lost.

“This means we can begin a process to reach a collective bargaining agreement in the next few months,” said Morgan.

During the day’s announcement, a room full of union workers cheered the agreement with many shouting, “Thirty-two B-J,” at several opportunities. Kenney himself led a cheer of the union’s letters in his time before the crowd.

“I know it wasn’t easy, but I’m sure this was the right thing to do,” said Kenney.

The agreement is between the union, which represents 1,400 workers at the Philadelphia International Airport, American Airlines and its contracting companies, PrimeFlight and Prospect.

Union representatives said Tuesday’s agreement would end more than four years of “worker unrest.”

“Philly needs good jobs to make Philly great for everyone,” said Alfred Williams, a baggage handler at the airport and a member of the union. “We are your neighbors. We take pride in the work we do every day. … We have a strong union contract and that makes all the difference.” 

Morgan said that a collective bargaining agreement is expected to be reached within the next six months.