A group of security officers at John F. Kennedy Airport announced a strike to begin Thursday afternoon.
The security officers, who work for Global Elite doing aircraft and ramp search and checkpoint monitoring at JFK, announced plans for a strike Monday stating they’ll leave their posts at 4 p.m. Thursday and end the strike at 1 p.m. Friday. Workers said they are frustrated with how their contractor treats pregnant co-workers.
During a Monday news conference, workers were joined with elected officials New York State Assembly members Linda Rosenthal and Carmen de la Rosa, New York State Sen. Brian Benjamin and several women’s rights and pregnancy advocacy groups such as Planned Parenthood NYC, A Better Balance, the National Institute for Reproductive Health and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
“My name is Kimani Edwards and I work for Global Security at JFK,” said the worker at the news conference. “This weekend, we voted overwhelmingly to strike to support these women.”
This summer, workers claimed that Global Elite placed two of their colleagues on involuntary, unpaid leave because they were pregnant. One of those workers, Symone Ellis, had an at-risk pregnancy and ended up losing her income and apartment and is now living in a Queens homeless shelter with her 6-year-old daughter.
De la Rosa said these discriminatory practices tend to hurt low-wage workers the most.
“It’s a shame what Global has put these women through, what they’ve gone through,” said de la Rosa. “It is discrimination and we are going to continue to call it out. It is discrimination and it is illegal. These women have the right to work and they have the right to be accommodated while they are pregnant, and they should not lose their jobs or their homes because they are pregnant.”
Another employee, Shakira Lewis, had her story chronicled in the New York Daily News. Ellis has followed in Lewis’ footsteps and is working with the New York City Commission On Human Rights on a pregnancy discrimination complaint. After their intervention, Ellis was put back on the schedule, but with reduced hours.
This Halloween also marked the 40th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but in a statement, New York Abortion Access Fund Board Member Lanai Daniels said that pregnant workers haven’t seen a decrease in discrimination.
“At the New York Abortion Access Fund we support every person’s right to a healthy pregnancy and the ability to raise their child safely and with dignity,” said Daniels. “Pregnancy discrimination is a threat to bodily autonomy and reproductive justice. We call on Global Elite Group to do the right thing by accommodating both Shakira and Symone so they can support themselves and their families without putting their pregnancies and their health at risk.”
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum said they’re standing by the workers and the women who are fighting back against their employer.
“At NAPAWF, we believe that no one should go without safe working conditions and no woman should face discrimination because of their reproductive choices,” read their statement. “We stand with Shakira Lewis and Symone Ellis and with other women of color fighting back against punitive treatment by their employers and demanding to be treated with dignity and respect. This is particularly important to fight for a future where we can all live as our healthiest, truest and happiest selves in this climate of hateful rhetoric and retaliatory laws.”