A group of over 150 fuellers, dispatchers and mechanics working at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle voted to ratify their first contract with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).
The contract makes them among the highest paid Swissport fuellers in the country, and puts into writing protection from things like favouritism, working through breaks and being penalised for using leave.
“Despite cultural and language barriers, the group was eventually able to agree on one important thing: they wanted respect on the job,” said Meaza Ogbe, Director of Organising at the Local 174 division of the Teamsters. “Yesterday, they proudly voted to guarantee they will be treated fairly by their employer.”
Negotiations were contentious at times, such as when workers voted overwhelmingly to authorise a strike that would have shut down the airport during holiday season. A strike also seemed imminent a few weeks ago, until Swissport management agreed to negotiate a contract.
“Before this contract, people worked at Swissport for years and got nothing – no raises at all, and no respect,” said Swissport employee and Bargaining Committee member Vailili “Vice” Malauulu. “This contract changes everything. No more discrimination or favouritism. The old Swissport is gone; we are Teamsters now.”
Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks claimed this was just the beginning, adding: “While we are pleased Swissport management decided to do right by their workforce, we still have a tremendous amount of work left to do in exposing the price-fixing done by the airline industry in taking advantage of a mostly immigrant workforce.”
Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 174 represents 7,600 working men and women in the Seattle area.