On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving–the busiest travel day of the year–airport security officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport picketed outside terminals. Why? Because of increased complaints regarding safety and how airline contractors are running security, particularly Global Elite and Air Serv.
The security officers said that they are now building a labor organization to fight against suppression of their rights and alleged attempts by Global Elite and Air Serv to silence their voices.
The event had about 60 people, including JFK security officers and their supporters, members of the Southeast Queens community, SEIU 32BJ members and staff and elected officials like Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu and New York City Council Member Letitia James.
“I can’t believe workers at JFK don’t have basic tools to do their jobs, like working wands and functioning radios, and that they are understaffed and rushed when searching planes,” said Stavisky, one of nine members of the state Senate’s Homeland Security and Transportation Committee. A couple of employees at Global Elite and Air Serv expanded on the senator’s statement.
“We still don’t have any radios,” said Yonathon Verastegui of Global Elite. “The training has still not improved; people only get one day of training. It’s not enough for the new search people to really know how to search.”
“Sometimes they don’t even give me a radio,” said Air Serv security officer Oswaldo Sanchez. “It’s actually rare that I have a radio, even less often that I have a working radio. This problem is ongoing.” Sanchez was one of the officers to file a new safety complaint, saying they initially weren’t given properly functioning radios.
Back in August, the TSA began investigating a complaint filed by Air Serv security officers–the company controls and directs terminal traffic and deals with passenger identification situations–regarding the radio situation and about accusations that several of the officers were given inadequate training or little or nothing beyond the minimum training requirement to be licensed as a security officer in New York state and Port Authority-provided Security Identification Display Area training.
Their new complaint said that nothing has changed.
Global Elite–whose workers are responsible for checking that unauthorized personnel don’t get onto planes and that maintenance crew and caterers don’t bring dangerous items on board, among other things–was accused of lapses in safety inspection in a complaint by security officers filed in September. Officers said that they weren’t provided radios and had to rely solely on personal cell phones, though the airport lacked cellphone service.