Wrongfully terminated Oakland Airport workers still fighting to get their jobs back

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A year ago, Hakima Arhab, a former Subway employee at Oakland International Airport, spoke up about the restaurant breaking living wage laws that guarantee paid sick days for employees. For this, she believes she was fired.

Since then, a campaign has been launched to raise awareness about Subway and Jamba Juice workers at the Oakland airport who say they were terminated for speaking out. This afternoon, June 27, members of service workers’ union Unite Here will join with Arhab and other terminated employees in picketing outside the Port of Oakland's Port Commission meeting, from 4 to 6 p.m. 

According to Arhab, "I left for a vacation for a month and a half, and I had told my employers four months before the fact. They were fine with it." Nevertheless, "When I came back, they said they had no hours for me, and I was fired. I then knew they had fired me not because I took a vacation, but I had complained about them breaking living wage laws." 

Arhab said Subway had not given paid sick days since 2009. The Port of Oakland's living wage law requires employers to provide 12 paid sick days per year. 

Last year, the National Labor Relations Board charged the operators of the airport Subway and Jamba Juice with breaking labor laws by terminating workers who had made complaints to the Port of Oakland. According to a report in the East Bay Express, the port conducted its own investigation, and also concluded that the store operators were in violation.

Unite Here representatives filed an appeal earlier this year to demand that Arhab and Diamond Ford, a former Jamba Juice employee, be reinstated to their jobs. Following an appeals hearing, the port agreed and ordered the operators to reinstate the terminated employees. 

But that still hasn’t happened. Though Arhab has participated in the campaign to shed light on unfair labor practices at the Oakland Airport, she says she still feels powerless. 

"I feel mad and un-powerful that these companies were breaking laws, and they had the power to fire me just because I complained," Arhab said. "I did the right thing. When will they?"

Picketers who plan to gather outside the Port Commission today aim to pressure the agency to compel the fast food restaurants to comply with orders to reinstate the terminated employees.

Sarah Norr, an Organizer for Unite Here, feels that Arhab and the other employees are being served an injustice. "The airport is on public land and is a public resource," Norr said. "When workers don't have sick days or job security, there's something wrong with that."