Atlanta airport cleaners to get raises after 13-year battle over minimum wage

ATLANTA — Workers behind the scenes to keep Atlanta’s airport running and clean are getting a raise starting next week.

Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach learned this fight for higher pay lasted more than a decade.

The airport workers, who are members of the Service Employees International Union, gathered for a day of action and celebration.

Cynthia Hartsfield can’t hide her emotions after nearly 40 years cleaning the airport she shares a name with.

“I’m….I’m speechless,” Hartsfield said. “Been doing it for 39 years and been hard…really been hard.”

Starting next week, all union, contracted workers in Atlanta will get better pay and benefits.

When they started fighting in 2009, entry-level workers made a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. After 13 years in 2022, it was only up to $8.50.

The pay will now jump to $12 to start.


Hartsfield knows of co-workers who couldn’t afford rent and worked double shifts to save up enough to live on.

“Now they can pay their own bills, buy groceries, cause a lot were living in the airport during pandemic time,” she said. “We have worked too long, too hard, been taken advantage of too much.”

The union is also holding demonstrations at airports around the country and outside airline headquarters including Delta Air Lines.

The SEIU said that the cleaners, who are mostly women and minorities, do not get equivalent pay but the battle here proves things can change.

“I’m just glad it came to a head and people actually get the money they deserve,” Hartsfield said.

The Atlanta City Council with now Mayor Andre Dickens as head of the transportation committee passed a resolution asking contractors to pay a minimum $15 an hour.

Hartsfield will be his guest at the State of the City address Monday morning.

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