Just Shy of Full-Time, It’s Virtually Impossible for Me to Visit My Family

By Evelyn Olano
I work for FSS as a wheel chair agent. I am the person that makes sure passengers who need assistance make it to their gates on time for their flights.

I work hard. But I would like to take some time off to visit my family in the Philippines. Unfortunately I only qualify for paid vacation if I work 2,000 hours in a year. But with the 32 hours/week I am given, I can never get there because we lose our hours at the end of every year and have to start again from zero. I don’t know when I will get to see my family without losing pay or even my job because it seems like I could never earn enough time to actually qualify for a vacation.

Reprinted with permission from It’s Our Airport.

We’re Not Treated With Respect

By Ikran Sheikh

I have worked at [Seattle–Tacoma International Airport] cleaning airplane cabins since 2008. I work hard making sure that Alaska Airlines cabins are clean.

But at the workplace, it feel like there is no respect, and nobody seems to value what you say. If you don’t speak English, you are treated like a donkey.

After three years of working graveyard shift I was finally transferred to days. After just six months, I was transferred back to graveyard. I think it was because my managers found out I was speaking out about the bad working conditions. When I complained, they told me if I don’t like it, I can turn in my badge — that means no more work.

I can’t afford to lose my job. I support my whole family on my hourly wages. That is why I am speaking out. Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle depend on the hard work of people like me. I am only one of the hardworking people at Sea-Tac that earn poverty wages. We deserve respect and fair wages.

Reprinted with permission from It’s Our Airport.

Cleaning Planes is Hard Enough Without Safety Problems and Rushed Schedules

By Inola Graham
While you are sleeping I work though the dead of night on the graveyard shift cleaning aircraft cabins. My name is Inola Graham, and I work for DGS.

On the day shift, the cabin cleaners do a quick turnaround cleaning – important work to ready the cabin for the new passengers. But on the graveyard shift my crew and I do what is called deep-cleaning. I am constantly stressed and rushed to do a thorough cleaning of the entire plane from top to bottom in only 45 minutes.

It is a stressful job and managers don’t give us enough time to do a thorough cleaning of the entire plane. We are rushed and rushed and often I am forced to work for more than 5 hours without a break, food or drinking water. The air conditioning is off during the graveyard shift and the heat in the plane is stifling. Our equipment is in poor repair, electrical vacuum cords are taped together and spray bottles of cleaning fluid leak onto our faces and arms when we clean the overhead compartments. Can you imagine working while your arms are being burned by chemicals?

We work hard to make passengers comfortable and the cabins sanitary. Big companies like Alaska Airlines profit from my hard work. We should be treated with respect and make a living wage.

Reprinted with permission from It’s Our Airport.

Why Are Nursing Assistants So Poorly Paid?

By Yang, Certified Nursing Assistant

his week there has been a lot of talk in the media about the movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.  While most of the attention was focused on fast food workers, advocates for direct care workers took the opportunity to highlight the negative impact that poor wages have upon caregivers and their residents. In an article in McKnight’s, Matt Yarnell, the Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, pointed out that nearly one in six of the state’s nursing home workers are paid so poorly that they are forced to seek public assistance through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Medicaid or both.

Yarnell wrote “If we are serious about providing the highest quality care for our residents, then we have to back our rhetoric with action. It means we have to provide living wages to caregivers to cut down on turnover, to not force caregivers to work excessive overtime and double shifts. It is about not forcing workers to have to look to the state for public assistance to provide for their families.”

Why are direct care workers so poorly paid? A common argument points to the low educational requirements necessary to work as a caregiver. Often this point of view comes from within the Long Term Care community itself.

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Taxi Drivers Like Me Start Every Week Hundreds of Dollars in Debt

By Gurminder Kahlon, Taxi Driver, Seattle
My name is Gurminder Kahlon; I am from India. In India I was a lawyer. Here I am a taxi driver.
Because of taxi drivers like me, people traveling for business, medical reasons, and to visit family and friends get to Sea-Tac (Seattle) Airport conveniently and on time for their flights.

The Port of Seattle and the big corporate airlines like Alaska depend on ground transportation services like taxi and shuttle drivers. And yet, we struggle to make a living. Just to have the privilege of picking up customers at our airport, we pay fees to Yellow Cab and to the Port of Seattle. Before I start work on Monday morning, I am already hundreds of dollars in debt. I have to work 12 hours a day and 6 days a week just to make ends meet.

It’s not right. That’s why I’m standing together with all workers for fair pay and respect.

Reprinted with permission from It’s Our Airport.

In Syracuse, NY, Examining the Poor Health of Low-Wage Workers

By Jeanette Zoeckler

Because people spend so much of their time at work, it is important to become aware of the ways that work impacts health. Low-wage jobs have become essential to our economy. Low paying, unstable work arrangements have created large numbers of workers with high risks of poor health due to hazardous health and safety conditions, the lack of a living wage, the potential for wage theft, the lack of union representation and discrimination.

There have always been dangerous and stressful work conditions, but historically, workers in difficult settings were frequently paid higher wages and benefits to compensate for the danger. Under these conditions workers in low wage jobs find it increasingly difficult to make a “decent living” under healthy conditions. Because these striking national trends are also likely locally here in Syracuse, NY, the Low-Wage Workers’ Health Project sought to characterize local low-wage workplace conditions and some of their potential impacts on worker health with an aim toward developing ideas and strategies for improving working conditions. The Project is a collaboration based at the Occupational Health Clinical Center in Syracuse.

More than 569 low-wage workers in Syracuse have described their working lives through surveys and focus groups conducted in the past three years.

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I Really Like My Job, But…

By Lonnie Glander

I’ve worked as a full time server in Portland, Maine, since 2002.  Before that I was waiting tables during the summer while attending school. I really like my job and I take it very seriously. I worked as a server at one local restaurant for eight and half years, and while the tips were good, I never got a raise.

After working on my feet for so many years I had hernia surgery (from lifting and carrying heavy trays up and down stairs) and blew out my knees. Every time I get sick or injured, I am out a paycheck. We have no paid sick days, so even if I’m injured, I feel compelled to go to work or worry about how I’m going to make rent.

I’ve been at my current job for three years and got a promotion to supervisor about a year ago. Sometimes I am at work up to 18 hours, and have to be back at the restaurant after a 6 hour break. You work like crazy during the busy season, but then during the slow season you can go weeks without a paycheck at all.

Serving has been my career. But it has wreaked havoc on my back and knees, and I feel I have nothing to show for it. I have no retirement, no security. I have enjoyed my jobs, and I often made enough to get by, but now am wondering if it was all worth it.

The minimum base pay must increase. It would give tipped workers stability, it would allow us the opportunity to save and prepare for slow seasons, which can come at unexpected times.

Reprinted with permission from Mainers For Fair Wages.