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Delta Fires Kip Hedges for Speaking Out on Wages, Inflames Labor Movement

Kip Hedges addresses his supporters outside the airport on Friday.

Kip Hedges addresses his supporters outside the airport on Friday.

When Kip Hedges, a Delta Air Lines baggage handler of 26 years, was fired for demanding a $15 minimum wage, Delta responded that he had made untrue and disparaging comments about the company.

Well, if Hedges's statement that many of his Delta co-workers currently make less than $15 is untrue, Delta has yet to clarify what exactly is untrue about it. As for the comments being disparaging, it's a credit to Delta officials for realizing they ought to feel ashamed.

On Friday, about 100 labor activists backing Hedges called for the airline giant to quit pouting, hire the veteran baggage handler back, and raise the minimum wage for all employees, including cabin cleaners, cart drivers, and wheelchair pushers. They crowded the street outside Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport with megaphones and signs blaring "15Now," a national labor rights movement calling for higher wages across various industries.

Mayor Betsy Hodges marched with fast food workers protesting for "15" outside a McDonald's in Uptown and a Burger King downtown on Thursday. Hedges got Rep. Keith Ellison, who closed out a week of demonstrations against policy brutality, transphobia, and corporate retaliation against union workers with a call for solidarity -- "We cannot separate the law enforcement issues from the economic issues," he said.

Hedges was fired on Tuesday. Since then, his former co-workers at the airline have been supporting him financially, he says. Even if Delta refuses to rehire him, Hedges still has rights to his pension from the airline and his union. He loses out on flight benefits and profit sharing for 2014.

"I've been here a long time. I've built this airline. I've cared about the union and worker justice, and I don't see the two as being opposed," Hedges said. "I think Delta does. Delta has made it clear, over and over again, that they're very opposed to a union for baggage handlers."

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Delta is on track to net $4 billion in profit this year.