MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Holiday travelers crowded the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Wednesday, barely noticing the silent parade of airport workers protesting for higher wages.

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Abenezer Madde was part of the protest. His hourly earnings are just above the minimum wage. 

“We are here today to ask for basic human rights: fair wages, safe working conditions and better benefits,” he said.

Madde, an airplane cabin cleaner, is one of 600 low-wage workers who carry heavy baggage and push passengers who are in wheelchairs.

Outside the terminal, a line of workers marched. With them was U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D — 5th District), who said many airport workers live on government programs.

“Good, decent people making wages so low that they can’t make it,” the congressman said. “And [they] literally depend upon food stamps, you know, Medicaid and other important programs just to survive.”

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Airport workers are supporting a minimum wage of at least $9.50 an hour. That would total about $19,760 a year.

“These folks are making minimum wage, making absolute poverty, poverty wages while the airlines are making out like bandits,” said Javier Morillo, the president of SEIU Local 26, Minnesota’s property services union.

The 600 full-time airport workers protesting have no health care benefits, get no vacation, no sick time, and they earn about $56 a day. 

The protesters would like the Metropolitan Airports Commission to intervene with some of the private companies that do business at the airport. 

There are 20,000 workers at the airport in different businesses, and they make an average of $66,000 a year, the commission says. 

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The commission added that it does not intervene on work conditions.