SEIU 32BJ Airport Workers' Campaign

Case Studies

SEIU 32BJ came to ART NOT WAR at a crucial moment. By early 2016, the national “Fight for 15” had achieved a tremendous amount of torque in the mainstream media. California and New York were on the precipice of signing a $15 minimum wage into law and the battle to bring that legislation to reality had placed fast food workers’ front line battle firmly into the national conversation. But another group’s struggle wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. Airport workers–from baggage handlers to skycaps to cabin cleaners–were stuck in a labyrinthine subcontracting system, earning poverty wages in unsafe conditions while airlines raked in record profits. We needed to unravel airport workers’ complex plight  and put it on the radar of progressive activists online and, eventually, into popular culture.

ART NOT WAR partnered with SEIU 32BJ for a six month campaign. On MLK Day 2016 we sent film crews to airports in New York, Boston, Newark, Seattle, Philadelphia and Miami to document a nationwide day of non-violent direct action. Airport workers and elected officials blocked traffic and were arrested in awareness-raising civil disobedience. ART NOT WAR stood by their side. We uploaded a series of video reports from the field to social media in real time and, by the end of the day, delivered a breakaway video featuring all of the actions nationwide to serve to press.

Our next piece was an explainer video starring Rosie Perez and millennial activist Ben O’Keefe. We enlisted MoveOn as a partner and, after mutual online promotion the video earned the most views of any piece of media SEIU 32BJ had ever released (more than a half million). We then mounted a major twitter push to amplify the video. As a result of our outreach, Rosie Perez, Moby, Olivia Wilde, Van Jones, and many other influencers shared the the video link in a tweet noting the hourly pay of skycap at DCA–just $3.77/hour–and the message reached more than 5 million people online. Even Michael Moore became a fan of the video, playing it before a premiere screening of his film Where to Invade Next. By the time our campaign had come to a close, a $15 minimum wage was on the books in New York and California with an increase in 19 states in 2017. As the Fight for $15 continues nationwide, ART NOT WAR will be there.