Houston Airport Workers Take Historic Step Toward $15/hr, Union Rights

Oct. 10, 2019
Houston joins ranks of nation's tops cities with airport living wage policies.

 Baggage handlers, catering workers, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants and other airport workers in Houston took a major step forward in their fight for $15 and a union, as Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an executive order that raises wages to $12 an hour by 2021—a 65% increase for those currently paid the minimum wage. The policy will raise wages for nearly 8,000 airport workers at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, United Airlines’ second-busiest hub, and William P. Hobby Airport. This is the most recent victory in an unprecedented winning streak for airport workers, giving hope to working people everywhere that joining together for good union jobs pays off every time.

"I'm proud to have stood with my co-workers to fight for this historic change at our airports, and I'm thankful that Mayor Turner is standing with working people like me,” said Teresa McClatchie, a passenger service worker at Bush Airport. “This raise is a victory, and we will continue our fight for $15 and a union for all airport workers. I've worked at IAH for 4 years making just $9 an hour, and every month is a struggle to make ends meet. This raise will help lighten the real stress of juggling bills like rent, food, gas and utilities when the cost of living has skyrocketed in Houston."

The announcement comes after airport workers spoke out at City Hall and rallied in the streets and at the airport for months, sharing stories of not being able to pay for rent, food, or medication. In September, SEIU TX released a report that revealed that many airport workers at Bush Airport are paid less than half of what people are paid to do the exact same jobs at many of United Airlines’ other hubs. Nearly half of the airport workers surveyed in Houston report being paid just $7.25 an hour.

"We believe that all employees are an important part of our workforce and add value to our economy," Houston Mayor Turner said at the press conference. "And the best way to show that is by paying employees a liveable wage."

Corporations like United Airlines have been able to keep wages at $7.25 for the past decade, even while profiting $2.1 billion last year, in part because the federal government has failed to raise the minimum wage. Working people are increasingly taking it upon themselves to put an end to the greed by winning fair wages and the right to form a union in their own cities, in red and blue states.

With this latest win in a rapidly growing and wildly successful movement, nearly 152,000 people have won raises and other benefits at 21 major U.S. airports, from LAX to JFK to O’Hare. Earlier this year, airport workers in Denver won $15 an hour by 2021 and now a new ordinance in Minneapolis is being considered that would raise wages for airport workers to $15 an hour by 2022.