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The Boston Globe

Business

Union appeals to Massport on wages

Workers at Logan International Airport yesterday appealed to the Massachusetts Port Authority’s board to require airport subcontractors to improve working conditions, citing paychecks that do not cover their bills and sick children left home alone because their parents’ jobs do not include medical days.

More than 30 baggage handlers, security guards, customer service agents, and community organizers attended the public comment period, the first to be held at a Massport board meeting, to discuss the working conditions of more than 1,500 contracted passenger service workers at Logan, none of whom are employed by Massport. Most of them earn $8 to $9 an hour and receive no benefits, according to SEIU Local 615, the service employees union assisting the workers. Some say they string together multiple jobs to make a full-time salary.

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Maria Barros, 60, said she has worked at the airport for 14 years on a subcontractor’s payroll, in jobs ranging from checkpoint security to customer service. During that time, she said, her hourly wages have dropped from $16 to $9.

“These pay cuts have made it difficult for me to pay my mortgage and the bills,’’ said Barros, who added that her 25-year-old son helps her buy groceries and car insurance.

Barros works for G2 Secure Staff, which, like all the contractors in question, is employed by airlines and other businesses at the airport. But officials at SEIU Local 615, which is advising the workers, said that as the airport’s landlord, Massport can require contracting companies to maintain certain work standards. Massport officials said the authority would look into whether it is appropriate for a landlord to become involved in employee-employer relationships, and how it would be regulated.

“You’ve got a commitment from this board that we will investigate what you’ve brought to us,“ said Massport chairman Richard Davey. “We will see what we can do with the subcontractors, knowing that although they don’t work directly for Massport, to your point, we are a public body as well and need to consider what we can do to help you.’’

G2, based in Texas, did not return a call seeking comment.

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Yocelin Ratchell, 46, who works part time for G2 helping customers who have lost bags, said she does not get paid sick time and has to make a difficult decision when her 12-year-old daughter is ill. “I have to leave her by herself,’’ she said, or send her to school with medicine tucked in her book bag.

The SEIU says it is helping airport contract workers around the country fight for better pay and working conditions and secure union representation. In Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose, officials have passed laws requiring airport contractors to pay a living wage and provide benefits.

SEIU Local 615 plans to be part of a coalition of Boston-area community groups scheduled to appear with airport workers at a Feb. 28 State House hearing about their working conditions.

The Boston City Council passed a resolution in December requesting that Massport “take all necessary actions to ensure that contracted employees at Logan Airport receive fair wages and benefits.’’ The Revere City Council passed a similar resolution this week.

The workers’ statements at the Massport meeting came on the same day that the authority’s board approved a more than $1 billion budget for 340 capital improvement projects over five years, including a consolidated rental car facility, airfield improvements, and terminal renovations.

Katie Johnston can be reached at kjohnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.

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