Lily Altavena, The Republic | azcentral.com Published 1:54 p.m. MT Jan. 15, 2018 | Updated 2:07 p.m. MT Jan. 15, 2018
Dozens of union demonstrators gathered at the busiest terminal of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Monday to condemn what they say are “poverty-level” wages for hundreds of airport workers employed by American Airlines subsidiaries.
Marching in a circle, they chanted, “We don’t get our contracts, American gets no peace” and “Contract! Now!” outside the departure level at Terminal 4.
Gate agents, ramp agents and passenger-service agents with Piedmont Airlines are among those asking for higher wages.
Labor union Communications Workers of America is attempting to negotiate a new contract for the subsidiary employees with Piedmont, according to Rick Brower, president of the local CWA branch and a ramp agent at Sky Harbor.
An agent starts at $8.05 an hour, he said, though American adds a differential to comply with state’s minimum wage, which is $10.50 an hour.Meanwhile, American employees with similar roles start at $13.48 an hour and can earn $30 an hour after 12 years, according to a flier handed out by protest organizers.
It’s not enough, Brower said.
Natalie Kosakowski, an operations agent with Piedmont at Sky Harbor, makes about $13 an hour, more than most Piedmont employees, she said, because she transferred from the East Coast. She directs planes to gates and coordinates services like catering.
“We’re serious: We want this contract, and we want fair wages,” Kosakowski said.
The mother of two said she and her husband pay about $1,400 monthly for a three-bedroom apartment in north Phoenix, an “astronomical” rent relative to her earnings.
Kosakowski wants to enjoy some of life’s little luxuries with her children: taking the kids to movies, or maybe a trip to Disneyland.
“Yes, they give us free flights, but if you can’t afford the hotels or dinners when you fly to those places, then what’s the point?” she said.
American Airlines directed inquiries by The Arizona Republic to Piedmont.
Jackie Jennings, a spokeswoman for Piedmont, confirmed the two parties are in the middle of contract negotiations.
“Piedmont and union representatives have worked collaboratively to make good progress on a significant number of proposals, and a majority of those proposals have been mutually resolved,” she wrote. “We look forward to our next working session, and hope to reach a tentative agreement that provides a secure and sustainable future for our team.”