Airport workers, union members and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison today called on Delta Air Lines to reinstate Kip Hedges, a pro-union activist fired just days ago for speaking publicly in favor of a $15 minimum wage at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
About 200 people joined the demonstration outside Termainal 1 at MSP Airport. They shut down the terminal’s Upper Level Roadway before being ordered by police to disperse.
Originally planned as part of the Black Friday Week of Action that also included Walmart and fast-food strikes, the airport protest became an outlet for activists and co-workers outraged at Hedges’ dismissal. Protesters carried signs and joined chants urging Delta to “bring Kip back.”
Hedges, a baggage handler and 26-year airline employee, told Workday Minnesota that Delta management issued the termination after citing comments he made in a video supporting of the “15 Now” campaign for a higher airport minimum wage.
In this video from today’s protest, Hedges recounts what he said about Delta, as his supporters echo his statement.
“In spite of being fired by Delta, I don’t plan to stop speaking out about low-wage workers at Delta, or the issue of unionizing,” Hedges said. “In the past two days, I’ve received massive support from my co-workers, from brother and sister flight attendants at Delta, the International Association of Machinists and the labor movement in Minnesota. This is the kind of force that it will take to win $15 at MSP, and it’s the kind of spirit that will lead to unionizing Air Serv and Delta ramp workers.”
Meanwhile, passenger-support workers at MSP, employed by contractors like AirServ, said Delta’s effort to silence Hedges would not keep them from working for a $15 minimum wage and a union.
“I do important work at the Airport for other peoples families,” said Randa Jama, a mother of two who works as a wheelchair assistant for AirServ. “I wish AirServ would support my kids the way I help Delta passengers and unaccompanied minors.”
Ellison, a DFLer from Minneapolis, called on Delta to reinstate Hedges. He also encouraged passenger-support workers’ to continue their organizing campaign.
“We can go a day, a week, a month without the CEO of Delta. We actually don’t need him,” Ellison said. “But you try to go even a short period of time without the cleaners or the drivers or the baggage handlers, and this whole place stops.
“You deserve respect, and you must be paid fairly.”