OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Contract employees who do work for Southwest Airlines are staging demonstrations at airports across the Bay Area and California Monday over working conditions and the airline’s use of non-union contractors.
Demonstrations were happening at San Francisco International Airport, Mineta San Jose International Airport and Oakland International Airport, along with Sacramento and several airports in Southern California.
The workers, who are represented by the Service Employees International Union, include baggage handlers, those who put passengers in wheelchairs and those who clean airplane cabins. Most are working for minimum wage.
Workers are calling out the airline’s outsourcing, saying their healthcare has become more expensive and working conditions have become more grueling as a result.
The SEIU claims conditions have become so bad, that it affects passenger safety.
“We think that they should be holding their contractors more responsible to give full benefits and treat their workers right,” said Kevin Christensen with the SEIU.
The union wants the airline to contract only with companies represented by the union, ensuring full health insurance and reasonable working conditions.
“The planners give us five minutes to clean the plane and they want it ready to go,” said cabin cleaner Luisa Cancio.
She says even with her union protections, the job is tough.
“Sometimes we cannot clean it right because we are short of staffing,” explained Cancio.
Some passengers told KPIX they sympathize with the demonstrators.
“That should be a well-paid job, because people are nasty sometimes,” said traveler Dee Pei.
The employees are circulating a petition urging Southwest CEO Gary Kelly to change the airline’s policy that is expected to be delivered at the Southwest Airlines shareholders’ meeting next month.
It is not immediately clear how the demonstrations would impact passengers at local airports.
KPIX 5 has reached out to Southwest Airlines for a response. An airline spokesperson said none of their employees were directly involved in Monday’s action.