For immediate release
May 24, 2016
Report: food and retail workers left behind in D.C. airports’ success
Food and retail workers rallied today at Reagan National Airport to highlight how working conditions at the D.C. airports lag behind other airports and government-owned buildings. A new report released today by UNITE HERE shows that at D.C.’s two government-owned airports, the government makes more money per hour from terminal concessions workers than the workers make themselves.
“We all know the airport makes money. But I only make $9.50 an hour. I can’t afford rent,” said Kasahun Belahu, a utility worker at Reagan National Airport. “I could not send money back home to help my mother before she passed away. What’s happening to our community is really sad. I did not expect jobs at the airport would be like this.”
At Dulles and Reagan National, the food and retail concessions generate important revenue for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the body that oversees both airports. MWAA, which gets a cut of all concessions sales, has seen revenue from the concessions program increase dramatically in recent years. The food and retail outlets at both airports, primarily staffed by Ethiopian immigrants, are expected to generate an estimated $144,000 on a daily basis for the airports authority this year. But despite the success of the airports’ concessions program, the food and retail workers at the D.C. airports have been left behind.
At Dulles, the estimated average wage for retail and food workers is just $9.74 per hour. For every hour worked by a concessions employee at Dulles, the airport authority makes an estimated $20.28.
“The D.C. airports are an important source of employment for Ethiopians in the region,” said Priest Walelign Ketsela, of Saint Michael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. “But instead of helping our community move ahead, the low wages and poor conditions at the airports are keeping our community behind.”
At other government-owned facilities, workers fare much better. Food workers at the Federal Aviation Administration D.C.’s headquarters average almost $5 per hour more than D.C. airport food workers. Conditions for workers at the airports serving the nation’s capital also lag far behind thousands of food and retail workers in other U.S. airports. At 62 airports, 35,000 airport food and retail workers have won raises and affordable health insurance by organizing with UNITE HERE.
Learn more at www.OurDCAirports.org.