Hartsfield-Jackson cleaners get raise after 13-year push

Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia on January 16th, 2022.

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia on January 16th, 2022.

After years of pushing for more pay, workers who clean the terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport are getting a raise.

The workers, employed by ABM Industries, will get a minimum of $12 to $15 an hour, depending on the shift, up from a minimum of $8.50 an hour.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents roughly 600 ABM janitorial workers at Hartsfield-Jackson, has been pushing for higher pay for 13 years. As the union negotiated a new labor contract last year, it asked for backing from officials with the City of Atlanta, which owns and operates the airport.

Last November, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution supporting a $15 an hour minimum.

After negotiations reached an impasse in February, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens helped broker a deal for the raises, the union said. That forestalled a strike by the workers. The workers’ previous contract expired last year, and the pay raises are part of a new one-year contract.

When Dickens was running for mayor last year, he voiced support for higher wages for the workers.

Airport businesses, like other companies across the country, have been struggling to find enough workers to staff their operations and have raised pay to attract more job applicants.

But airport janitorial workers are not direct employees of the airport nor a contractor to the airport. Instead, airlines are responsible for cleaning and maintaining the airport terminal. Decades ago, they formed a cooperative called Atlanta Airlines Terminal Company to jointly handle the work. AATC contracted with ABM Industries for much of the janitorial work.

Also Wednesday, the Service Employees International Union held a national day of action at airports calling on major carriers, including Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, to support pay rates for airport contractor workers.

Delta said it does not control pay for the workers and that it requires its vendors to provide fair and competitive compensation.