SEIU Local 1 St. Louis Lambert International Airport janitors are applauding St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to abruptly pull the plug on the nearly two-year process looking into leasing the airport to a private operator.
Krewson sent a letter to members of the Airport Advisory Working Group Dec. 20 saying she was asking her representative, Linda Martinez, not to support or vote to move forward with a request for proposals.
Krewson said she listened to members of the public, business and political leaders who expressed serious concerns and apprehension about this process, and the possibility that a private entity might operate the Airport.
“There’s really very little support for moving forward with a private operator of our airport,” Krewson said.
SEIU Local 1 represents nearly 100 janitors at Lambert.
Local 1 janitor Keyahnna Jackson said the Mayor’s decision was “a victory of every St. Louis resident. Privatization of our airport would have lowered standards for passengers, workers and our entire region.
“From the start, it was clear only insiders and the status quo would benefit from the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport,” she said. “Working people and community allies came together and fought hard to hold wealthy special interests accountable and to stop the privatization of one of our city’s most important assets.
“SEIU Local 1 janitors will continue to fight to make sure our airport is an economic engine for our city’s working families, not just the wealthy and well-connected,” Jackson said. “We look forward to working with all parties to make our airport stronger for everyone.”
THE CHALLENGE AT LAMBERT
Lambert has 1,000 unused acres of land, $900 million of capital requirements over the next 10-15 years, a big runway which is underutilized, is almost $700 million in debt and has serious capacity issues. Privatization would have provided an option for addressing those issues, but not without some risks.
While airport privatization is common in other parts of the world, St. Louis would have been the first major airport in the United States to lease its full operation.
“Being ‘first’ at anything brings inherent risks and skepticism,” Krewson said in her letter to the Airport Working Group.
Many other major cities have already begun or completed major improvements in their airports, and Krewson said she wants the same for Lambert.
While privatization is off the table, Krewson said, the business community and airlines remain committed to finding a way to make the major investment needed at Lambert to provide a better customer experience, increase passengers and cargo and capitalize on the airport and the city’s assets.