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Philadelphia airport workers strike over wages and benefits

Striking airport workers picket at Philadelphia International Airport Thursday.AP

PHILADELPHIA — A few dozen baggage handlers, airplane cleaners and other non-union workers went on strike at Philadelphia’s airport Thursday, demanding higher wages, benefits, and an end to what they say are unfair labor practices.

Workers who say they make as little as $7.25 an hour picketed at Philadelphia International Airport starting early Thursday.

They want their employers, airline contractors Prospect Airport Services and PrimeFlight Airline Services, to comply with a living wage law passed last year that requires pay of $10.88 or more per hour at city-owned facilities.

They’re also calling for affordable health benefits and sick days.

‘‘Who can feed four kids off of $7.25?’’ said baggage handler Sarina Santos. ‘‘I have a mortgage, car insurance, like everybody else. We are here for respect and more money, and we ain’t going nowhere until we get our money.’’


The strike didn’t affect airport operations, spokeswoman Diane Gerace said.

Prospect Airport Services said in a statement that it anticipates raising the base minimum wage, in accordance with the city’s living wage law ‘‘in the near future’’ and that it’s doing everything it can to provide employees ‘‘with the best wages and benefits’’ under the law and its contract at the airport.

Prospect said eligible employees are already given an opportunity to enroll in affordable health coverage through the company and that employees will soon receive paid sick leave under a recent city ordinance. It said it is unaware of any unfair labor practice.

PrimeFlight didn’t immediately return messages Thursday.

Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize workers at Philadelphia and at other eastern airports, including Pittsburgh, Newark, and Kennedy.