A subset of workers at Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport — two of the largest economic engines in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties — announced this morning they will go on strike to demand better wages and working conditions. The strike is part of a multicity effort across America: Workers in New York City and Washington, D.C., will also go on strike today.
The strikers — a collection of ramp workers, baggage handlers, cargo workers, and other vital laborers at the airports — all work for a private contractor called Eulen America, which was the subject of a scathing CBS Miami investigative report earlier this year. The story, by veteran investigative reporter Jim DeFede, laid out how Eulen hires recent Latin-American immigrants to clean airline cabins and haul hundreds of bags per day on scorching-hot tarmacs without adequate access to water. Union workers say Eulen limits their working hours to avoid paying large salaries and sometimes forces them to drive unsafe vehicles. (In a long statement, Eulen later refuted those claims.)
The workers' union, the Service Employees International Union, says multiple Democratic presidential candidates will attend rallies at Door 1 of MIA's Terminal D. Among them will be New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who will arrive at 7 a.m., and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will be present at a 1:15 p.m. rally. Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as a Bernie Sanders surrogate, will also attend the early-afternoon rally.
Strike actions are typically kept under strict wraps before they're announced in order to protect the safety of the workers involved, but de Blasio mysteriously placed a stop at MIA on his schedule, leading some reporters to ask why:
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Bill de Blasio is having a rally at the departure door of an airport tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/JLJUXNAO5J— Scott Bixby (@scottbix) June 26, 2019
Bill de Blasio rally tomorrow at the... American Airlines departure drop-off pic.twitter.com/w5FgtHtKVD— J.D. Durkin (@jiveDurkey) June 26, 2019
(In a follow-up statement, a union rep said they were thankful De Blasio was attending the strike and that he had been authorized to refer to the event as a “rally.” Still, workers said they’d been concerned that news would leak out ahead of schedule and lead to backlash against workers from Eulen.)
In a press announcement, the SEIU said workers "will walk off the job to demand that Eulen put an end to abusive and hazardous working conditions, including airport vehicles in dangerous disrepair with faulty brakes and missing seatbelts, inadequate staffing, health and safety concerns, as well as retaliation and threats over organizing for better conditions."