Hoodline: Phoenix City Council Passes Heat Safety Ordinance as Sky Harbor Airport Workers Rally for Better Conditions

Amid Phoenix’s blistering heat waves, airport workers at Sky Harbor International Airport are raising alarm over working conditions that they claim to be intolerable. Service Employees International Union reported that their members “endured for weeks on end unsafe working conditions” without sufficient access to shade, potable water, or medical care as temperatures soared. These concerns prompted action on Tuesday when, according to ABC15, the Phoenix City Council passed an ordinance designed to strengthen heat safety protections for workers.

Workers joined by Phoenix Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari have also taken their grievances to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), filing a complaint against Prospect Airport Services. Anasari and employees gathered outside Terminal 4, spotlighting their plight with signs and evidence of the extreme heat they are subject to. One cabin cleaner described being hospitalized due to heat exposure, revealing “I’ve suffered from extreme fatigue, weakness, headaches, vomiting, muscle cramps, loss of coordination and nausea,” as she told AZ Family. Anasari’s backing comes in conjunction with demands for congressional action on the “Good Jobs for Good Airports Act,” which promises higher wages and better benefits for airport workers.

Cecilia Ortiz, a lead wheelchair assistant at the airport, voiced her frustrations over the wages which range from $13 to $14 an hour. In a statement to AZ Family, Ortiz said, “Our wages and benefits are a slap in the face after coming into the airport day in and day out to make it possible for these airlines to function”. The workers contend that their salaries are inadequate for a job that demands so much, especially under harsh temperature conditions.

In response to the raised issues, Prospect Airport Services released a detailed statement regarding their efforts to ensure worker safety. They asserted that they are committed “to the safety of all its employees.” The company outlined various initiatives, such as a training campaign on heat illness awareness, refrigerated water coolers in break rooms, and regular water and Gatorade delivery. They also mentioned access to popsicles and spray bottles for employees to cool down. “All aircraft cabin service employees throughout the organization are trained on the importance of staying hydrated during extreme weather like the US is currently experiencing,” Prospect stated, according to a release to AZ Family.

The tension between the need for heat safety protocols and the current conditions at the airport continues to be a heated topic. With the city’s intervention and the pressure mounted by Vice Mayor Ansari’s support, coupled with the complaints filed to OSHA, Sky Harbor workers are striving to ensure not just a cooler workplace environment, but also to secure the pay and benefits they believe rightfully match their laborious and indispensable roles within the airport’s ecosystem.

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