Port of Oakland Custodians Speak Out About the Understaffing Making the Airport Unsafe for Passengers and Workers
“What do we want? We want to be safe! What do we want? We want YOU safe!”
On Wednesday, April 14, dozens of custodians at Oakland International Airport held an informational picket to call out chronic understaffing that is leaving crucial sanitation work undone and creating unsafe conditions. The custodians picketed and hung a banner over 880 to call attention to the issues they have been facing for more than a year.
One custodian of more than 20 years, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “We’re understaffed. We don’t have enough people to cover the areas, and it’s not safe for the passengers or the custodians, being at the airport when there are only two people to clean the whole airport on any given shift. If they don’t have enough staff, a whole lot of areas don’t get covered. You can social distance all you want, but if the place is not being sanitized, it’s not safe!”
As the custodians chanted, the custodian continued, “It’s unsafe. The airport is unsafe, and our management is unfair. They’re not treating us fairly. Other departments are understaffed too, but they get offered overtime to cover their shortages, but it seems like the custodians don’t get that privilege, they just leave our work undone.”
The unfair understaffing is forcing individual workers to do the work of several positions and has led to numerous reported injuries. Instead of filling positions properly to get the work done and keep workers and passengers safe, management is cutting corners. At the informational picket, one custodian said “Right now, they’re taking a loophole in our contract and using temporary employees, which was in our contract for clerical positions. They have never used that for custodial until now. Now we have supervisors doing work that union workers should be doing. All that needs to stop. This is a fight for all of us.”
To call for more staffing at the airport, please sign our online petition: seiu1021.org/port