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Phoenix airport service workers demand better pay and benefits

Posted at 9:12 AM, Sep 20, 2023

PHOENIX — Airport service workers held a rally at Sky Harbor on Tuesday afternoon, where they demanded better wages and better benefits.

ABC15 spoke with Cecilia Ortiz on Monday, a lead passenger service agent at Sky Harbor Airport. Her job consists of helping those with disabilities get to their flight.

She says she loves her job but has concerns since she has heart failure.

"I used up all of my sick time maybe about three months ago," said Ortiz, who is contracted by Prospect Airport Services.

RELATED: Phoenix Sky Harbor workers file complaint, vote to strike over dangerous working conditions and low wages

ABC15 was told service workers, contracted by Prospect Airport Services, get 40 hours of sick time a year but no paid time off (PTO). That's one thing they will be demanding on Tuesday during a rally at Sky Harbor.

"I mean, it's like, do I take a chance to make my condition worse to where I'm going to have to take more time out, making other people sick? On top of... it's either that or a pay cut," said Ortiz.

Tuesday's rally was one of three held across three states. Workers demanding Congress act by September 30 and write airport service workers into the FAA Reauthorization bill, focusing on affordable benefits and fair wages.

"We all really feel we're being undervalued, absolutely underpaid. Our PSAs are getting paid $13.85 an hour," said Ortiz.

The workers are allowed to accept tips but it's not something they can rely on.

Earlier this month, they even filed safety complaints with the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, related to extreme heat hazards.

"Nausea. Then I started getting dizzy," said a cabin cleaner who wishes to remain anonymous.

That woman tells ABC15 she suffered from a heat-related illness this summer.

"I didn't put it together until I went home. I slept, I got up, figured it out and I went to the hospital," said the cabin cleaner.

She says the cleaners can be on the plane for about 40 minutes, most of the time with no air conditioning.

Concession workers have also been asking for better working conditions and pay. They even held a vote on September 1, to authorize a strike if needed. That is something service workers have considered and say if that were to happen, there could be major disruptions.

"I would be so bold as to say it would probably shut things down there," said Ortiz.

ABC15 reached out to Prospect Airport Services for a comment but has not heard back.

Phoenix police say six people were arrested during Tuesday's rally near 41st and Washington streets.

Nearly 150 people took part in the rally Tuesday afternoon.

Those at the rally carried signs as they continued to fight for affordable benefits and what they refer to as living wages. At one point, multiple people decided to sit down in the middle of the street. Phoenix police officers could be heard warning them it is unlawful to intentionally stop traffic, but they did not budge.

ABC15 spoke with Zachary Bodine, a baggage handler who was cited during the demonstration.

"To show that I'm willing to stand up and do everything for this movement. More awareness to airport workers' safety and just get the respect and dignity that we deserve... the pay, benefits, paid time off, vacation, sick time... because a lot of us don't really have that so it's difficult," said Bodine.