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Faith leaders are standing in solidarity with Philadelphia airport workers striking today over unfair labor practices and retaliation for seeking to secure raise wage that voters passed in May.
Clergy joined workers today at the picket line to give words of support, prayer; Rabbi called on employers to “be a mensch. Pay your workers.”
Contact: Margaret Ernst (c) 609.577.6430 (o) 215.232.7697
Philadelphia, PA- Faith leaders whose congregations have driven efforts to shed light on injustices at Philadelphia International Airport joined workers at their picket line today and called on their employer, PrimeFlight, to do the right thing and pay the living wage mandated by voters last spring. The interfaith organization POWER worked to pass the increased wage and benefits standard after having worked since 2011 to shine light on economic justice at the Airport.
Baggage handlers and other workers employed by the subcontracted firm PrimeFlight went on strike this morning after they have faced unsafe working conditions and faced retaliation for pushing for the wage hike. Elder Melanie DeBouse, pastor at Evangel Chapel in North Philadelphia greeted workers at 6AM as they walked off their jobs and prayed with them. Later, Rabbi Avi Winokur of Society Hill Synagogue in Center City spoke at a rally and called on PrimeFlight to “Be a mensch – pay your workers.”
“Clearly PrimeFlight has not been reading their Bibles. Our shared prophetic tradition requires that we treat each other fairly, and that includes those who work for us. No one should be forced to beg for food or clothes or shelter when they are working full-time,” Winokur continued.
“Over the last three years POWER has walked with the workers at the airport around issues of living wage, fair working conditions and a right to be able to organize into unions. Today, we walk with them on the picket line as they have taken the next step in demanding the dignified treatment they deserve. We will continue to stand with them until fair wages and good working conditions prevail at the Airport,” said Rev. Gregory Holston, pastor at New Vision United Methodist Church in North Philadelphia.
According to SEIU-32BJ, PrimeFlight worker Misha Williams was unjustly fired after leading her fellow workers in a delegation, which Rev. Holston and other POWER clergy leaders also participated in, to ask employers about when the raised wage would go into effect.
The airport became a focus of POWER’s campaigns in 2011 after local faith leaders saw it as an opportunity to increase prosperity for Philadelphians. POWER’s clergy and lay leaders believe they have a moral imperative to continue to fight for change at the Airport, which is one of the Delaware Valley’s largest employers and should be a catalyst for prosperity, not poverty in the city and region.
“As people of faith, we have an obligation not just to heal the sick and feed the poor but also to stand up and stop them from becoming sick and poor to begin with,” said DeBouse.
About POWER: POWER represents congregations from across the Philadelphia region, bringing people together across the lines of race, faith, income level and neighborhood — lines which have historically kept our city and state divided. POWER is committed to the work of bringing about justice here and now and seeks to exercise power in the public arena by strengthening and mobilizing our networks, so that the needs and priorities of all Philadelphians are reflected in the systems and policies that shape our city. POWER is nonpartisan and is not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office. Learn more at www.powerphiladelphia.org.