Airport (148473)

Local airport workers were close to the breaking point Wednesday, but pulled themselves back with a new deal.

“We are pleased to announce that the voices of 1,200 workers have been heard,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa, at a news conference at the LaGuardia Airport Mariott Hotel. “In response to the concerns raised by Aviation Safeguards employees at LaGuardia and JFK Airports, an agreement has been reached between Aviation Safeguards and 32BJ SEIU.”

According to the union, the terms of the signed agreement includes Aviation Safeguards agreeing to be neutral in their employees’ efforts to join 32BJ SEIU and recognizing 32BJ as their employees’ union of choice. They also agreed to bargain a contract, if most of their employees sign cards authorizing 33BJ to be their union representative through a card check procedure.

Workers believe that they have enough votes to join 32BJ.

“It’s a great surprise,” said Juan Chapman, an Aviation Safeguards security officer. “This means that all our bravery and organizing has paid off. Canceling the strike is acceptable with these terms. When you want something you have to fight for it. Don’t wait for help. You can make it all if you believe.”

Before the agreement, 1,200 airport workers for Delta’s subcontractor Aviation Safeguards at both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports planned on striking in protest of threats made by their employer. Labor organizers had met at the beginning of the week and voted unanimously to authorize a strike. Security officers warned Aviation Safeguards a week in advance in the interest of public safety.

It would have been the first time airport security officers would’ve walked off the job during the airport workers’ three-year national campaign for higher wages, benefits and union representation. Elected officials had already come out in support of the strike, including New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“At the New York City Council, we stand up for social and economic justice,” said Viverito in a statement. “That’s why we stand with our security officers, baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants at JFK and La Guardia airports. They are a vital part of our workforce and they deserve respect, recognition, and fair pay.”

According to protesters, when security officers, baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants started organizing for better wages and benefits, Aviation Safeguards illegally threatened them by stopping workers from wearing buttons, misrepresenting their rights as employees and threatening to fire them for striking. Airport workers officially joined the Fight for $15 movement at the beginning of this year.

“All hard-working employees in our city deserve to make a living wage. Our airport workers have incredibly demanding jobs and they are entitled to fair compensation. It is their right to fight for a $15 minimum wage and we should not allow them to be illegally harassed or intimidated for simply asking for a reasonable salary,” said New York Council Member Mathieu Eugene in a statement. “It is an honor to stand with them as our city fights for a $15 minimum wage for all of our hard workers. We won’t back down until there is justice.”

In June, 500 airport workers, elected officials and activists held a news conference outside of a Port Authority Board meeting demanding that their jobs be modernized along with the proposed improvements to amenities and to release the wage and benefits plan they promised.

Earlier this month, members of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger participated in a food fair at LaGuardia Airport to provide screenings to airport workers to find out if they’re eligible for food subsidies. Make the Road New York members also provided free meals, for airport workers who usually can’t afford lunch, at the screenings.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently raised the wages of airport workers to $10.10, but 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa said that many workers still live below the poverty line and rely on government assistance to get by. Most of the workers also don’t receive benefits.