Just two days before Americans were to give thanks for their blessings and opportunities, Maryland area clergy, labor leaders and members of the Baltimore community gathered to say thank you to the hundreds of food and retail workers at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.
"We’re here to give thanks to those who don’t usually receive them," said the Rev. Carletta Allen of Allendale Presbyterian Church, "We believe that employers should treat their employees with dignity and respect."
Since January, food and retail workers at BWI have been organizing for a Bill of Rights at the airport that would guarantee them job security, the right to full-time work with fair wages and benefits, a workplace free from discrimination and harassment, and the right to organize a union in a neutral environment. To date, they have held rallies and a picket at the airport, and spoken in front of the Maryland state Senate, House of Representatives and the Board of Public Works. Workers have stood tall in their fight for better job, even in the face of alleged threats and intimidation on the part of their employers. To date, the actions of three companies—Silver Diner, Creative Food Group and McDonald’s—have resulted in the involvement of the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, who entered into settlement agreements with the companies, resolving alleged unfair labor practices.
"I decied to join the union committee to fight for justice and fairness for everyone," Guetwende Yameogo, a cook at Silver Diner, told those assembled, "Thank you for supporting us in making our jobs become better jobs."
Clergy members had the opportunity to recite a blessing over the airport workers present at the ceremony, thanking them for their hard work and commitment. They then pinned a button to their lapels, which featured a photo of the airport’s namesake, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and read "Justice at BWI." In a show of solidarity, many of those in attendance also wore the buttons, as did workers throughout the airport who were unable to attend.
Also in attendance were Maryland Senator Verna Jones Rodwell, Delegate Veronica Turner, Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes, President of Baltimore Metro AFL-CIO Ernie Grecco, and President of the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO, Fred Mason.
"On behalf of 300,000 union brothers and sisters, I want to say to workers that, when other people try to steal your courage… just know that you have brothers and sisters out there supporting you," said President Mason, "While times may get tough, don’t be discouraged. We will win."
"Workers, religious leaders rally for fair labor at BWI Airport," Capital Gazette, 11/27/13