DIA workers to push for higher minimum wage

B concourse at Denver International Airport.

About 66 wheelchair attendants and baggage handlers walked off their jobs at Denver International Airport on Tuesday in a dispute over workplace and safety issues.

The employees – all contract workers with Prospect Airport Services – say they’ve been unable to get management to respond to a variety of health and safety issues, including the handling of guns brought to the airport by passengers.

One of the striking workers, Garhett Smith, said that when a passenger declares having a weapon in their baggage, it is the employee’s job to take that bag to a scanner to ensure that the weapon is not loaded.

“They don’t train us how to handle these items and also give us the bare minimum on how to do the process,” Smith said.

A spokesperson for Prospect could not be reached for comment. A DIA spokesman said airport officials were aware of the work stoppage.

"At this time, airlines and the airport are not experiencing any operational impacts due to this event," DIA spokesman Alex Renteria said in an email. 

David Fernandez, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 105, said the strike also involves issues such as employees having to assist multiple wheelchair passengers at once and hauling oversized luggage without safety belts. They also complained about cockroaches in an employee breakroom.

SEIU Local 105 is working with the striking employees at DIA but does not formally represent them.

The workers primarily serve Southwest, Frontier and Delta airlines.

The striking employees drew support from Denver at-large City Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who send out a Twitter message that read, “Going on strike is never done lightly, today baggage handlers & wheelchair attendants made that tough decision due to lack of vacation/sick time/training, inconsistent wages/scheduling, unfair discipline. I stand in solidarity with them. Airport jobs should be good jobs.”

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