Airport workers hit the picket lines

Stephon Johnson | 11/26/2015, midnight
A week before Thanksgiving, airport workers wanted to let companies know who hold the power.
Airport

A week before Thanksgiving, airport workers wanted to let companies know who hold the power.

In cities such as Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia and Chicago, airport workers—ramp workers, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners, wheelchair attendants—went on the first ever national airport worker strike to rally in favor of better wages, working conditions and health benefits. Workers also want a $15 minimum wage and the right to organize.

Workers who are employed by subcontractors at places such as LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports are protesting for different reasons. At JFK, terminal cleaners working for Roma, a subcontractor of JetBlue, walked out over “unfair labor practices,” including threatening to let go of workers who were attempting to organize. Cabin cleaners and airport terminal cleaners for Ultimate Aircraft, another JetBlue subcontractor, walked out for similar reasons, adding interrogation and suspension of termination of workers attempting to organize.

At LaGuardia, cabin cleaners employed by Delta’s subcontractor Gate Serve went on strike due to unfair labor practices and refusing to respect a worker’s choice of union representation after an election and work load changes.

In New Jersey, airport workers have received a show of support from local elected officials, including Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio, New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

“Airline profits are soaring, but airport workers are still struggling,” said Fulop in a statement. “Airport jobs used to be good jobs that sustained families, but that has changed since subcontracting became the norm, resulting in a race to the bottom trend in this industry. Airport workers deserve better.” Fulop said he fully supports airport workers around the country in their fight for better treatment, safer working conditions, higher wages and the right to form a union.

The union 32BJ SEIU is the main organizer behind airport strikes in the tristate area and other parts of the country. Union Vice President and New Jersey State Director Kevin Brown said the nationwide effort by airport workers was a great display of power by labor.

“Airport workers are uniting to send a clear message to the contractors and the airlines they serve that intimidation, harassment, threats and other anti-worker tactics have no place in our nation’s airports. By striking, workers are putting the law-breaking contractors on notice that any further disregard of the law will not be tolerated.”