Seven months ago, whileparticipatingin a protest outside Philadelphia International Airport for a higher wages from subcontractors employed by the various airlines that travel through the airport, Philly mom Sarina Santos said she and other workers were facing threats of terminationfor their organizing effots.
“We’re standing up for what’s right. Don’t tell us that we can’t do it because we’re going to lose our jobs,” she said at the time.
Unfortunately, Santos’ prediction has come true.
Three weeks ago, Santos spoke at St. Joseph’s University Santos spoke to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Honduras, an advisor to Pope Francis, and 250 other Catholic leaders about workers’ rights.
Five days later, she was terminated from her position as a baggage handler for North Carolina-based subcontractor Primeflight.
She believes the termination was a response to her speaking out.
“Working for Primeflight, I earned $7.25 an hour,” Santossaid at a rally in Dilworth Park today organized byPOWER (Philadelphia Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild).
“It’s hard when you work 40 hours a week, and when you get your paycheck, it doesn’t look like you work full-time. … I live paycheck to paycheck. I work a grueling job, lifting 50 to sometimes 100 pounds,” she said. “People working full-time in America, this land of milk and honey, should be able to afford food and have affordable health care.”
Workers of Primeflightand another airport subcontractor, Prospect, have engaged in unionization attempts while Philadelphia City Council has passed bills mandating “labor peace” be reached at the airport.
Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Nutter signed a law last year that would increase the minimum wage for employees of city subcontractors to $10.88.
However, these changes have not yet led to an increase in wage for employees of airport subcontractors.
“When the Pope gets to Philadelphia International Airport in September, it shouldn’t be an airport full of poverty-wage workers,” said Rev. Gregory Holston.
City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez attended the rally for Santos and pledged to continue the effort to enforce wage increases at the airport.
Quinones-Sanchez has introduced a new bill to change the permitting process for ground-handling subcontractors at the airport, which would include compliance with existing city minimum wage requirements. That bill goes before the Commerce Committee Thursday.
In the meantime, Santos just wants her job back.
Primeflight did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Santos’ termination.
See video of Santos speaking at the November 2014 rally below.