Fight to End Poverty Wages Takes Center Stage

On Monday, July 16, the critical issue of ending poverty pay for Piedmont and Envoy employees at American Airlines took center stage at a live-streamed town hall discussion featuring Senator Bernie Sanders and workers who have suffered low wages and lack of respect at Amazon, Disney, McDonald’s, Walmart, and our own American Airlines. Piedmont agent Heather Hudson delivered a clear and powerful message: It's time for American to share its enormous profits with its workers, who are the key to the company's success.

Heather is an 11-year veteran Piedmont passenger service agent. She came to the Washington, DC town hall, from her station in Charlotte, North Carolina, to speak for employees at Piedmont and Envoy. She took the microphone to explain the situation of so many dedicated agents who have to work double shifts and seek public assistance just to feed their families and pay the rent because their hourly wages are so low.

“We are being paid these poverty wages,” said Heather, “even though we make these businesses successful.”

Heather started at Piedmont making $8 an hour, but her husband’s salary allowed her family to survive. “Now that I’m separated, and a single mother of four, I rely solely on my paycheck to take care of my family. My current salary, after a decade working for Piedmont, is less than $14.50 an hour."

“I cannot make ends meet on my own, without working extra hours—and on those days I work 12-hour days. Even with this additional time, I qualify for food stamps, and my children receive Medicaid. I’ve been getting this support for the past five years. You will never understand how humiliating it is to be at the social services office in line with your coworkers. It shouldn’t be this way.”

“The starting wage at Piedmont right now is $8.50 an hour. I have coworkers who work double shifts every single day—that is from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.—because they’re not earning enough to take care of their own families. Some of my coworkers work second jobs at fast food restaurants because they make more per hour than we do.”

"So you ask why do I stay? I stay because I love my job. I love my coworkers. . . . We work hard for our company, and we deserve more. That's why we're here fighting for a living wage and fair contracts for over 9,000 passenger service agents just like me."

Heather ended her remarks with a challenge to the company:

"For me the most disturbing fact about all of this is that we work for a company that is tremendously successful. American Airlines made $1.9 billion last year. . . . Is American using this money to support its frontline workers at Piedmont or Envoy?  The answer is no."

"At the end of the day, I believe it's time for this company to share those profits with us, the workers, who are the key to success."

Senator Sanders said that the “culture of greed” in the United States has to end. “People, in a sense, are disposable. We work somebody to the point of no return, and then we get rid of them.” But he ended the town hall on an optimistic note, "The good news," he said, "is that all over the country we're seeing people standng up and fighting back." 

If you'd like to see the full town hall, take a look at the video here. And follow all the news about the fight to end poverty wages on our American Agents, Piedmont Agents, and Envoy Agents Facebook pages.