After working as a wheelchair attendant at Dulles for 20 years making as little as $7.25 an hour, Isata Jalloh, was fired after being accused of asking for a tip.
Support is pouring in for the low-wage Dulles International Airport worker who is now struggling to pay her rent and support her four children in her country of origin, Sierra Leone.
Jalloh left Sierra Leone after the civil war, and said she just wants to make enough money for her kids.
After paying the rent, she sent virtually everything she could home to her children.
“I grip them like this, I start crying, because I’m a mother,” she said, crying again in the small Herndon apartment she shares with three other people. “I think about my kids.”
“I like my job. I work very hard for them,” she said.
But in May, the contractor that employs many of the low-wage attendants at Dulles and Reagan National, Huntleigh, USA, fired Jalloh, accusing her of asking a couple flying first class for a tip.
She’s adamant she never asked for a tip.
“I never asked for a tip,” she said. “Never in my life.”
Washington Post columnist Theresa Vargas says Jalloh’s plight demonstrates the tenuous hold so many low wage workers have as they struggle at the margins of our society. “She spent more time at Dulles Airport than at home.”
For three years, the workers’ union has struggled to get Huntleigh to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with airport workers like Jalloh. Now, union organisers have set up a GoFundMe page to help her and thousands of dollars have poured in.
“I just want to thank the American people for bringing me to this country,” said Jalloh. But she still desperately wants her job back.
“I’ve lost my job, I don’t have any work,” she said through tears and defiance, but clearly depressed.
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