Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Silent Protest Greets Travelers at FL Airport: Union Files Charges

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Travelers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday will witness a silent protest by airline service workers who want to call attention to what they say are unfair practices by their employer, Baggage Airline Guest Services, Inc., a contractor for Delta and American airlines.

The company allegedly is demanding that tipped employees report a minimum of $25 in gratuities every day, whether they earn them or not, and disciplining those who don't comply.

"If you don't put the required $25 a day in tips, then you will be suspended or eventually terminated," said wheelchair attendant Rashad Grant, one of the few willing to speak publicly for fear of retaliation.

Grant and others will walk silently through airport terminals with their mouths taped shut Friday to protest what they say are company efforts to silence them.

A representative from BAGS Inc. denied that the company places a minimum on the amount of tips employees must report. Many passenger service workers, including wheelchair attendants and skycaps at Fort Lauderdale, earn the state minimum wage as tipped employees, which is less than $5 an hour.

Grant said most days he comes home with $5 or $6 in his pocket from tips. Add that to his hourly wage, he said, and he brings home about $400 every two weeks for about 30 hours a week. He works another job to support his family of five.

"I have to come into work very tired and sleepy," he said, "but I have no choice because I have to support my family."

The passenger service workers are nonunion employees, but are trying to organize. Union 32 BJ, SEIU, which represents other service workers, claims BAGS Inc. has retaliated against employees and has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board on their behalf.

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