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Alice Walker doesn’t support JetBlue’s affiliation with her play

STEPHON JOHNSON | 12/17/2015, 1:09 p.m.
JetBlue might be the official airline of “The Color Purple,” but the play’s creator isn’t a fan of the company.
Alice Walker

JetBlue might be the official airline of “The Color Purple,” but the play’s creator isn’t a fan of the company.

“We are excited to announce our new partnership with the hit Broadway musical ‘The Color Purple,’” read a JetBlue release at the end of November. “To celebrate, we are offering customers the unique opportunity to enter today to win a ‘JetBlue, The Color Purple, and the Red Carpet’ grand prize experience, providing a lucky winner and a guest with flights to New York to attend the opening performance, a chance to walk the red carpet and an exclusive meet and greet opportunity with cast and crew.”

But Walker, who then received letters from airport workers who are fans of hers talking about their “Fight for $15,” is no longer a fan of the sponsor and skipped opening night for the show in protest.

“Now I learn, on the morning before I leave San Francisco for New York, that a company that JetBlue contracts to supply the labor used the clean the planes is refusing to pay the women and men involved $15 an hour,” wrote Walker. “That these people, who make sure my seat and the area around me are clean and fresh whenever I board a plane, are being paid starvation wages is shocking.

“Nobody can be expected to make ends meet on less than $10 an hour,” continued Walker. “Certainly not on as little as $6.75.”

In letters to Walker, airport workers described the working conditions and poverty wages that they endure working for companies subcontracted by the likes of JetBlue. In November, the AmNews reported that workers employed by subcontractors at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports have been protesting unfair labor practices despite threats against those who attempted to organize workers. Terminal cleaners for Roma, a subcontractor of JetBlue, walked away from their jobs and rallied based on said threats.

“I will always love people who stand up for their lives, which are, beyond imagining, precious,” wrote Walker. “And I am thankful that I am a writer with the ability to add my witness through words when I am unable to present my physical presence, as I have been invited to do by the airline workers who are protesting the injustice of their plight, or are on strike.” Walker ended her post with links to stories about JetBlue aircraft cleaners demanding better protection from bodily fluids and a living wage.

The AmNews contacted JetBlue for a response to Walker. “JetBlue is committed to ensuring an appropriate wage for airport workers,” read their response. “We have long been on the record urging our business partners to be responsive to the needs of their employees.”