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BWI food, retail workers protest wages, benefits

Food and retail workers at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport protested working conditions on Wednesday and attempted to deliver a proposed "Bill of Rights," to AirMall USA, BWI's concessions manager.

Unite Here, a labor union that represents hospitality workers in Baltimore and elsewhere and is working to organize the airport concessions workers, said the private management company has benefited from higher passenger traffic while workers struggle with low wages and lack of health care access. Food concessions workers at BWI earn an average $15,912 annually, Unite Here says.

Workers were turned away in their attempt to deliver the petition, which seeks to guarantee job security, fair wages and benefits and the right to join a union in a neutral environment, Unite Here said.

Mark Knight, president of AirMall, which manages the concessions under a contract with the Maryland Aviation Administration but does not directly employ the workers, countered that AirMall has increased jobs from 500 in 2004 to 1,500, giving employees the ability to move up to better positions. He said average full-time workers earn $18.38 per hour while full-time and part-time workers earn an average of about $15 an hour.

"It's a very robust wage level and not what is being represented," Knight said. "We support the workers' right to choose if they want [union] representation."


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