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Dallas officials asked to help DFW Airport workers get health care and livable wages

DFW International Airport
DFW International Airport
Dallas city officials were briefed Monday by SEIU Texas union leaders about low wages and lack of benefits for contracted DFW Airport workers.

A labor group wants the Dallas City Council to help some Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport workers get increased wages and benefits.

That’s according to a briefing given by representatives of the Service Employees International Union in Texas at Monday’s Transportation and Infrastructure committee meeting.

The labor group represents “over 36,000 airport service workers” nationwide. It claims that many contracted DFW Airport workers don’t have affordable health care, paid sick leave and aren’t currently represented by a union.

The briefing comes after severe winter storms shutdown, delayed or canceled hundreds of flights at both DFW and Dallas Love Field.

Elsa Flores is the president of SEIU Texas. She says low wages can pose challenges during times of airline chaos.

“Low pay and poor benefits have been driving airport service workers away from their jobs, leading to high turnover,” Flores said.

She asked council members to set up a subcommittee within the DFW Airport Board to research wage and other inequities for contracted workers at the airport. And her group also wants the city to pass a resolution in support of a bill that would establish the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act.

The bill, which was introduced to Congress last year, aims to address “pay, benefits and labor standards” for airport service workers. It would create a minimum wage standard for small, medium and large airport hubs around the country.

The bill would restrict airports from receiving federal funds if they aren’t able to certify that service workers are paid at least $15 per hour — or the applicable state, local or required wage.

“Thousands of workers could be impacted by this federal bill,” Flores said.

One worker who attended Monday’s committee meeting said she likes working at DFW Airport, but that workers deserve to be paid a livable wage.

“As soon as I leave this, I am going to work. I cannot afford to take off,” she said.

Dallas city officials hold seven out of 11 DFW Airport board seats, but some council members had questions over what exactly they could do for airport workers.

Council member Tennell Atkins represents District 8. He says the city needs to do what they can to help the issue along.

“It’s crucial that we need to get involved here. I thank you for bringing this to our attention, but I think we need to send a message to the DFW Airport board,” Atkins said.

Others did not think the airport wages should be a city council issue. Council Member Cara Mendelsohn represents District 12. She says if wages are too low at DFW Airport, there are many other vacant jobs that need filling.

“There’s employers all across our city and our region actively looking for employees,” Mendelsohn said.

But the airport worker who spoke at the meeting says it’s not as easy as quitting and finding a new job.

“I’ve looked for jobs constantly, I’ve applied everywhere. I have a degree and no one calls me back,” she said. “So I have no choice but to stay at DFW.”

Most committee members seemed to be supportive of the union’s goals. Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Omar Narvaez says there has been talk about figuring out a way to form a subcommittee within the DFW Airport board to explore this issue.

Flores says Dallas city officials have done great work in the past to ensure workers get fair pay. She wants to see the same given to DFW Airport contractors.

“We have a great airport in Dallas-Fort Worth,” Flores said.

“Let’s not leave these other workers behind.”

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

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Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.