Hedges, a baggage handler for 26 years, is also active in the effort to organize ramp workers at Delta, the largest airline at the airport, into the International Association of Machinists.
Ramp workers, flight attendants, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners and cart drivers took part in the protest, along with supporters of their fight for $15 an hour. They chanted in English, Somali, Amharic and Spanish. Many were workers who are fighting for a union at Air Serv, a subcontractor that pays some of the lowest wages at the airport. The rally was called by Service Employees International Union Local 26, the Delta organizing committee and 15 Now.
“Delta was trying to chill the atmosphere around the Delta organizing drive, the Air Serv organizing drive and the 15 Now campaign when they fired me,” Hedges told the Militant Dec. 13.
“I was told I was terminated for making ‘untrue and disparaging’ public comments about the company on a video posted on the Internet leading up to the Dec. 5 rally,” he said.
What he says in the video is, “A lot of the Delta workers make under $15 an hour. As a matter of fact, I would say probably close to half make under $15 an hour. So there’s a lot of them that understand how important this is. And a lot of the better paid workers also understand that the bottom has to be raised, otherwise the top is going to fall as well.”
“Delta never thought that there would be a demonstration of 300 people at the terminal. I have never seen anything like the support I’ve gotten,” he said.
“After the merger between Northwest and nonunion Delta in 2008, the company went on a campaign against the union,” Hedges said. “Posters were put up everywhere. Workers were called in to be intimidated. Everyone was constantly surrounded by anti-union messages.”
IAM supporters lost the vote in a 2010 election. “Since then, union activists have been subject to extra scrutiny by the company,” Hedges said.
“Delta wants to replace us with low-paid workers, such as part-time, temporary ‘ready reserve’ baggage handlers and ticket agents with no benefits or seniority,” he said. “Air Serv workers — cabin cleaners, wheelchair pushers and cart drivers for Delta — make $8 to $10 per hour.”
“Since Kip was fired, increased numbers of ramp workers in Minneapolis-St. Paul and several other Delta stations have been signing union cards,” Marty Knaeble, another pro-union Delta ramp worker, told the Militant.
Hedges appealed the firing, and the Machinists union is preparing a lawsuit. Co-workers are organizing a fundraiser to support the fight.
Word of the firing has spread to Delta hubs in Atlanta, Detroit and elsewhere, and nearly 2,000 people have signed an online petition in protest. The petition can be found at
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