Workers protesting wages at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport briefly shut down access to Terminal 1 on Friday afternoon.
The group of about 200 people, representing several local labor organizations, blocked the road to the departures area, causing traffic to back up for about 20 minutes.
The march followed a planned protest in front of Terminal 1 where some baggage handlers demanded a $15 an hour wage and asked that their employer, AirServ, negotiate with the Service Employees International Union.
The protest was sharpened by Tuesday’s firing of Delta baggage handler Kip Hedges, a long-time employee who was let go by the airline after 26 years because he made “disparaging remarks” about the airline.
The crowd chanted Hedges name over and over and then “Take him back, take him back” before letting him speak.
“I want my airline to prosper, I want them to succeed,” Hedges said. “They are prospering and they are succeeding because of the work of AirServ workers cleaning the cabins of the aircraft, the janitors, the flight attendants and the pilots – union and non-union.”
Delta is on track for $4 billion in profit in 2014, he said, and yet the company pays $8 an hour to cabin cleaners, cart drivers, baggage handlers and wheel chair workers. The crowd booed.
The group was joined by Rep. Keith Ellison.
“This is the culminating day of a whole week of action,” Ellison said. “Americans crying for justice at the hands of law enforcement were protesting this week, and I just want to tell you something that some people aren’t in a mood to hear, but it’s true. A lot of our police officers are working class people, but the bosses have always paid one part of the working class to attack the other side. We need to get some solidarity around here.”
Ellison said the protests over police violence are inseparable from protests over economic issues.
“You cannot separate the law enforcement issues from the economic issues,” he said.
The protest included a handful of Delta flight attendants, who are working toward a vote to unionize, and workers for Delta subcontractor AirServ. Members of SEIU Local 26 and CTUL, a worker center that coordinates with the SEIU, were present and ultimately orchestrating the event.
Following several speeches, the crowd marched down a ramp and blocked traffic to the departures area under the watchful eye of police. After about 20 minutes, the protesters moved out of the roadway and MSP announced on Twitter that access to Terminal 1 had been reopened.
On Thursday, a protest against police treatment of minorities shut down I-35W in Minneapolis for more than an hour.