At 7:30 am, about 100 airport people marched into the atrium of the world’s busiest airport chanting, “We can’t survive on $7.25.”
The crowd got bigger as they rallied, with people working in the airport who had been standing around the domestic terminal coming over to see what was happening. Protestors handed them signs so that they could join the effort. As we marched out of airport, one protestor tried to hand a sign to a skycap who replied, “I wish. My boss is over there.”
Today’s rally was the first for people who work in airports to take place at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. With airport workers now an active force in the fight for $15, protestors are building momentum to push through House Bill 8, legislation that would increase the minimum wage in Georgia.
The bill, sponsored by Representatives Tyrone Brooks, Dewey McClain, Dee Dawkins-Haigler, and “Able” Mable Thomas, all of the metro Atlanta area, was prefiled in November of last year. If passed, it would not only increase the minimum wage, it would raise the minimum wage annually to match cost of living increases.
With this legislation and similar bills nationwide propelling them, airport workers, supported by organizations like Airport Workers United, Fight for 15, Atlanta Raise UP, and Jobs with Justice are rallying around the country. This makes them the latest group of people in low-wage jobs to organize to raise the minimum wage. In the past year, people in the fast food, convenience store and home care industries have all held protests and strikes around the country calling for the minimum wage to be raised.
The protests have had several victories thus far. A number of states and municipalities increased their minimum wages either through ballot measures or legislation in 2014.
One airport employee, who had been active in protests in support of people in the fast food and convenience store industries for several months, was received with cheers by the crowd. A member of Atlanta Raise Up, she declared, “We want to be able to feed our families. We want to be able to pay for books for our kids to go to school. We want to be afforded an education, and that all starts with labor.”
Speakers repeatedly invoked the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and reminded the crowd that, as they protested on Dr. King’s birthday, an increase in the minimum wage that would raise people out of poverty would stand in line with his legacy.
As the protests drew the attention of passengers, one speaker pointed out that everyone would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. “People who travel through this airport deserve to be served by employees who work with dignity and justice with a decent pay and decent jobs that can feed their families,” he stated.
As the crowd marched out of the building, the chants of protestation transformed to one of determination. Travelers looked on as the South Terminal filled with voices shouting, “I believe that we will win!” It looks like this year victory may well be within their reach.