Following the story that aired on CBS4 Miami revealing the harsh and unsanitary conditions at Miami International Airport, Rep. Donna Shalala (FL-27) held a roundtable discussion Wednesday morning with Miami International Airport workers employed by Eulen America, a contractor for American and Delta Airlines, to learn more about the working conditions and discuss appropriate steps to protect workers’ rights. Miami Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins (District 5), Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL-24) and representatives of 32BJ SEIU joined Rep. Shalala to support the Eulen America workers.
“The increased scrutiny of the subcontractors and the working conditions of the employees made clear that airport workers at Miami International Airport face sweatshop-like conditions that are beyond unacceptable,” said Rep. Shalala. “We must do everything we can, from passing legislation supporting the right to unionize, strengthening worker protections, and simply using our platforms to fight for South Florida. No company should be able to intimidate or fire someone for trying to unionize, and no individual should be forced to drive vehicles with no brakes or windshield wipers. To work seven or eight hours in the sun before receiving a break or a drink of water is inhumane. No one should be treated this way.”
As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Rep. Shalala is committed to fighting for workers’ rights: humane working conditions, living wages and benefits, and the right to unionize. She is a cosponsor of the Raise the Wage Act, an act that would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024. Rep. Shalala is also an original cosponsor of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or the PRO Act, which would create much stronger enforcement measures and penalties against companies that prevent employees from unionizing, protect workers’ right to strike, and ensure their right to collective bargaining.
“I am speaking out because I am tired of being treated like a machine. I am a human being,” said Esteban Barrios, a Eulen America ramp worker for Delta Airlines. Barrios claims he was docked a dollar per hour from his pay after asking his supervisors for more information on workplace injuries. “The airlines made $38 billion last year and Eulen is a multi-billion-dollar company. We need them to invest in their workers and in their equipment. This is beneficial to both workers and the passengers we serve,” said Barrios.
The alarming CBS Miami news report detailed the following:
- Ramp vehicles and cabin cleaning trucks operating without working seatbelts, faulty brakes, no mirrors, broken windshield wipers, and broken fuel gauges.
- Trucks that transport cabin cleaners and carry passenger supplies that are crawling with roaches, don’t have closing doors, and seats that are held together with broken seatbelts and blankets.
- Cabin cleaners forced to take shortcuts because so little time is given to clean. One cabin cleaner, who wished to remain anonymous, described contact with vomit and blood on passengers’ blankets. When cleaning a toilet, he was told to “wipe it up with a rag,” quickly, to make it look clean.
- Eulen America workers described inhumane conditions and temperatures on the tarmac in the grueling Miami heat. They also told CBS news they were not given breaks or access to drinking water until the end of their shift. Workers refuted Eulen America’s claim that a golf cart travels around distributing water and Gatorade to the workers.