A report released today by UNITE HERE reveals racial inequality in job classification among surveyed workers in the concessions program at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, raising further questions about the true impact of the airport’s concessions program on economic progress in Baltimore and the surrounding region. The report finds:
- Racial Disparity in Job Classifications: Surveyed African-American workers disproportionately staffed typically lower income and lower status positions such as back-of-the-house jobs and fast food jobs, while surveyed white worker disproportionately staffed front-of-the-house restaurant positions such as bartender and server.
- A Majority African-American Workforce: 59% of surveyed BWI food and retail workers were African-American; 83% of surveyed African-American workers lived in Baltimore.
- A Low Percentage of African-American Owned DBEs: Just 7.5% (3 of 40) airport concessions operators are African-American owned “disadvantaged businesses.”
“I make $8 per hour in my job at McDonald’s,” said Natalie Hickman, a two-year airport employee and Baltimore City resident, “Working in fast food is one of the hardest and lowest-paying jobs in the airport and, looking around, it’s obvious to see that almost all of us working in BWI’s fast food restaurants are African-American.”
The BWI concessions program is managed by a private developer, AirMall USA. This is not the first time that issues have been raised about the AirMall-managed program. For nearly two years, airport food and retail workers have testified to numerous job quality issues among them insufficient wages, poor job security and inadequate benefits. These have led to questions about AirMall’s role at the airport from elected, community and religious leaders.
This new report adds fuel to the fire. In a letter issued Monday morning, over 50 signatories including the Maryland State Conference (MSC) NAACP, Senator Catherine Pugh, the Caucus of African American Leaders and other political, labor and religious leaders called for the Maryland Aviation Administration and AirMall to investigate the issue of racial and wage inequality at BWI. The letter specifies that AirMall’s contract with the state should be terminated if it fails to take these actions to address the problem.
“It’s unconscionable that racial inequality could exist at BWI’s concessions program,” said Gerald Stansbury, President of the MSC NAACP, “That this inequality should exist in a facility named in honor of Thurgood Marshall—one of this country’s most influential leaders in the struggle for equal rights—makes it even more egregious. AirMall USA and the MAA must take action to ensure that all airport concessions workers enjoy the same opportunities. Only then will BWI truly honor Thurgood’s legacy.”
- Download the report, “A Missed Opportunity: How the BWI concessions program fails Baltimore’s African-American community”
- Download the full list of signatories to the call for the Maryland Aviation Administration and AirMall USA to address racial inequality at BWI’s concessions program
- “Why are black workers relegated to the lowest-paying jobs at Baltimore’s Airport?” | The Nation, 08/08/14
- “Labor union, NAACP allege racial disparity in airport jobs” | MSNBC, 08/06/14
- “NAACP, labor union claim racial inequality in BWI airport restaurant hiring” | Baltimore Sun, 07/29/14
- “Report: Racism in BWI’s concessions workforce” | Baltimore Afro-American, 07/28/14
- VIDEO: “Workers say racial discrimination rampant at Thurgood Marshall Airport” | The Real News, 08/11/14