Airport workers march to Delta headquarters, push for higher pay

Hundreds of workers for airport contractors marched to Delta Air Lines’ Atlanta headquarters Saturday to deliver a letter pushing for support of higher pay.

The Atlanta airport workers along with other members of the Service Employees International Union walked a nearly mile-long path in the midday sun from the Holiday Inn Atlanta Airport North to Delta’s campus just north of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The letter delivered to the guard shack at Delta’s front gate calls for employees of contractors that clean the airport and handle passengers in wheelchairs to be paid at least $15 an hour. Those workers are not employees of Delta, but are employed by contractors that handle work at Hartsfield-Jackson.

“It’s time to invest in the workforce that kept Delta and the airport running during the pandemic,” the letter says.

Delta issued a statement Saturday saying it “has a strong track record of providing industry-leading compensation and benefits to its employees.”

“Similarly, we require all vendors to provide fair and competitive compensation and maintain a proper working environment, ensuring they align with our core values of treating each other with dignity and respect,” Delta said in the statement.

Airport janitorial workers are employees of companies contracted by an airline cooperative called Atlanta Airlines Terminal Company. The cooperative is controlled mostly by Delta as the dominant carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson.

While Delta has become known for paying lucrative bonuses to its employees, some airport and airline contractors pay their workers less than the major carriers do.

Airport janitorial dispatcher Charlotte Yvonne Bryant said she participated in the march to Delta’s headquarters because “We’re trying to get them to understand what we want and what we are fighting for ... which is more money and paid holidays and benefits that we can afford.”

Delta security responded to the crowd of workers that gathered at the company’s front gate Saturday. The march follows a May 1 rally held by the Service Employees International Union at the Hartsfield-Jackson curbside to push for pay starting at $15 an hour for more airport workers.

It’s part of a national effort to advocate for passage of federal legislation to set standards for wage and benefits for airport service workers, as part of a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

While Delta is the dominant airline in Atlanta, SEIU Workers United regional director Chris Baumann said “we’re going to be doing actions across the country” focused on multiple airlines and airports. The union also continues to seek pay raises for janitorial workers it represents at Hartsfield-Jackson, after talks started in February.