Airport workers need a union

January 31, 2013

ON JANUARY 25, dozens of Oakland International Airport concession workers and their supporters rallied to support their right to unionize. Supporters from local unions and activists from the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition and the International Socialist Organization picketed outside the terminals, while workers handed out leaflets calling for a boycott.

Over the past few months, workers at Subway, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Auntie Anne¹s and other airport concessions have been organizing against unfair labor practices, including low wages and few hours. Two Subway workers were fired for talking about organizing a union.

Hakima Arhab had worked at Subway for a year and a half, travelling between locations both inside the airport and out. She was unable to find full-time work in any location, and wasn't paid overtime, despite working more than 40 hours between two locations. Arhab filed a complaint with the Port of Oakland and later went on an unpaid vacation that she had cleared with management four months prior.

When she returned, her manager refused to put her on the schedule, claiming that there were no available hours, although her co-worker Patricia Cruz says this was a lie. Arhab was fired.

The Port of Oakland later ruled that Arhab should be paid for the time she should have worked, but is not holding Subway accountable for giving her back her job.

Cruz says another co-worker, Bikram Thapa, was fired after refusing to sign a benefits agreement. "I asked for time to read the paper, to take it home, but [management] said no, just sign," she said. "I told him not to sign. That¹s when management asked Thapa if he was organizing with the union. When Thapa said he was, management offered him more hours if he would stop organizing. He was later fired."

Cruz remains unafraid, saying, "We need to see what happens. We need to see Hakima and Bikram back to work."

UNITE HERE Local 2850 organizer Adriana Carranza told the crowd that the best way to support the concession workers is to "[s]upport the boycott. Don't cross the picket lines. If you're flying through, stop by and express your solidarity with the workers."

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