Airport workers demand living wage be paid

OAKLAND, Calif. – A lively crowd of more than 50 pickets from several Bay Area unions and community groups marched and chanted slogans in front of the Port of Oakland Building June 18, demanding that the Port Commission take action to implement the Charter Amendment. The Charter Amendment was adopted by a vote of 78 percent of the voters on March 5, requiring that Port Contractors pay workers a living wage of $10.50 an hour.

Measure I, as the amendment is known, was accepted by the State of California on April 25, but the Port Commission has not informed the businesses affected of their obligations under the new law, nor have they included living wage requirements in new and renewed lease agreements entered into since April 25. None of the companies affected by Measure I are presently complying with the law.

Roughly 200 workers at the Port-run Oakland Airport are struggling to get by on the $7.50 an hour paid by the car rental companies and other Port contractors. For a 35-hour-week, that means a difference of $104 a week in pre-tax income, and as Raeann Hernandez, an airport rental car worker, put it, “Every day that goes by, I feel that my rights are being violated. It’s not fair that I am struggling to make ends meet while working two jobs, when there’s a law now that could make a real difference for me and my family. Hopefully, with our petition, and this demonstration, they will see that this is important to a lot of people.”

The East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), which played a key role in organizing the mass campaign that led to the passage of Measure I, with the backing of the Alameda Central Labor Council, led the demonstrators into the regular meeting of the Port Commission. There, EBASE Co-Director Amaha Khassa told the commissioners that EBASE and its supporters expect action to implement Measure I before the next meeting of the Commission in two weeks, on July 2.

Khassa told reporters, “If there’s no action to implement Measure I before July 2, we’ll be back with a bigger picket line on that date.” Area unions participarting in the protest included delegations from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Service Employees International Union, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees, Teamsters Local 70 and the Alameda County Central Labor Council.

The author can be reached at ncalview@igc.org