By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Scores of employees who work for American Airlines and US Airways sent a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch this week, asking the DOJ to investigate claims of race discrimination and unsafe working conditions.
The 18-page letter to the Department of Justice alleges that Black and minority baggage, maintenance, catering and ramp workers at Philadelphia International Airport and at Reagan International were forced to endure racial discrimination. The letter describes a culture of segregated break rooms and substandard conditions, work opportunities and more.
“You had black people in specific workrooms and white people in specific work rooms,” says David Smith, who has worked in food services for American Airlines for eleven years. He says Black employees were denied training and overtime opportunities and also were forced to work on older, broken equipment in need of repair.
“Our concern is for our own safety,” he says, “and if something were to happen– the safety of everyone.”
“There have been cases where our client’s lifts have caught on fire, there have been all kind of injuries,” says Brian Mildenberg, a Philadelphia attorney who represents the 80 employees. He says 60 of the workers are located in Philadelphia, with the rest in Washington. He says when employees complained to management and nothing changed, he reached out to the FAA and OSHA.
“The FAA substantiated that a violation of airline safety had occurred,” says Mildenberg, noting the Airline was fined earlier this year. His clients say the conditions have remained the same, so they decided to take their cause to the Department of Justice. Mildenberg says employees snapped photos of the allegedly deficient equipment. He says he’s also getting complaints from other cities.
“We hope that steps will be taken to bring the airline into compliance,” says Mildenberg.
American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein emailed a statement that says:
“The safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority. The training procedures and equipment that we use have been recognized as the best in the industry and fully comply with government safety regulations.
“Likewise, diversity and inclusion are fundamental to our airline. Ours is a diverse workforce serving customers who are equally diverse, and we are committed to fostering a work environment that is based on collaborative teamwork and mutual respect. We will vigorously defend our company and the hard-working employees who provide top-quality service to our customers each and every day.”
For a link to the letter to the DOJ, CLICK HERE.