Workers at Atlanta airport, Starbucks push for higher pay



Union workers around metro Atlanta marked picketed and pushed for better pay and working conditions on Monday, marking May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day.

“I shouldn’t have to work three jobs, but Starbucks only gives me 24 hours a week,” said Amanda Rivera, an organizer with Starbucks Workers United, who was among about 25 who rallied outside Starbucks’ corporate office in Brookhaven. Rivera is a barista at the Ansley Mall Starbucks, which voted last year to unionize.

Organizers accuse Starbucks of firing union leaders while using many excuses, some of them frivolous, to avoid bargaining.

The company denies the charges, arguing it has been willing to talk and that its objections to some bargaining are based on labor law precedent.

“While we respect the right of our partners to engage in lawful union activities without fear of retaliation, inaccurate information shared by Workers United ignores their own delay tactics and distracts from our consistent efforts to move the good faith bargaining process forward,” said Andrew Trull, a spokesman for the Seattle-based company.

Three Georgia stores have so far voted to unionize. More than 300 stores representing 8,000 workers nationally have voted to unionize, said Casey Moore, a union organizer.

It isn’t just money, said Traye Ivey, a barista in an Augusta Starbucks that voted to unionize a year ago.

His biggest complaint was scheduling that made it hard to plan or left a worker with too few hours, issues that could be negotiated, he said.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the Service Employees International Union held a May Day rally to push for pay starting at $15 an hour for more airport workers. Workers along the Terminal South curbside held signs pushing for raises, as travelers streamed into the terminal and motorists drove along the airport roadway.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Last March, SEIU successfully won raises for Atlanta airport janitorial workers at ABM Industries to increase starting pay to $12 to $15 an hour, depending on the shift — up from as little as $8.50 an hour.

Mayor Andre Dickens helped broker a deal for the raises, forestalling a strike. Airport janitorial workers are employees of companies contracted by an airline cooperative called Atlanta Airlines Terminal Company. The cooperative is controlled mostly by Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines as the dominant carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson.

Delta said it requires its 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.”

Union officials say low pay exacerbates high turnover rates, which affects service at the airport.

Some workers at the airport are unionized, while others are not.

This year, SEIU is seeking pay raises for the ABM janitorial workers it represents in talks that started in February, negotiating for labor terms at another airport contractor and seeking to organize workers at airline contractor Unifi.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Rio Bryant, a wheelchair agent at Hartsfield-Jackson, said he has dealt with short-staffing and “all the emotions” of stressed-out passengers at the airport.

Bryant said getting better pay is a focus for many workers at the airport.

Hartsfield-Jackson issued a statement saying employees of the city government who work at the airport are paid at least $15 an hour, while the custodial workers are employed by contractors. The airport said it “works with those service vendors to ensure all employees at the Airport are treated with respect and provided a living wage.”

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi