Subcontracted American Airlines workers found an ally in U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker.
Booker recently met with with aggrieved workers from Eulen America, a subcontractor under investigation for multiple labor violations. The senator announced his support for Eulen America’s efforts to unionize and said he planned on reintroducing federal legislation to crack down on subcontracting firms such as Eulen.
“You have no stronger partner in the Senate for fighting against the despicable and pervasive exploitation of subcontracted workers in the airline industry,” Booker said to Eulen employees. “We need more federal oversight of these subcontracting firms, especially bad actors like Eulen, and stricter safeguards in place to prevent abuse. And in order to achieve these goals, you need the right to organize. I’m with you in this fight.”
Eulen America is a Spain-based contractor that 32BJ SEIU officials noted is currently under investigation for complaints of wage theft, discrimination, health and safety issues, and paid sick leave violations. According to the union, Eulen has threatened, surveilled and retaliated against workers who’ve tried to unionize.
“The claims made against Eulen are unacceptable wrongdoings that a company can commit,” said Kevin Brown, vice president and N.J. State director of 32BJ SEIU. “Here in Newark, we respect the rights of working people, companies like American Airline’s subcontractor Eulen need to learn that when you mess with working people, there will be consequences.”
A recent report by the National Employment Law Project found that 42% of U.S. workers make less than $15 an hour; 55% of women make less than $15 an hour.
Eulen America is one of many examples of airlines outsourcing labor costs to contractors and temp workers instead of directly hiring employees. According to the union, between 1991 and 2015, the portion of workers in the airline industry employed by subcontractors and contractors almost doubled. Outsourcing also allows companies like American to shield themselves from any accusations of federal law violations by contractors.
Adassa Douglas, former Eulen cabin cleaner at Newark Airport, said that it’s a boost to have elected officials on your side.
“We’re grateful to Senator Booker for taking the time to hear our experiences first-hand,” stated Douglas. “He’s been a strong and steadfast leader not only in our fight to unionize, but in our efforts to achieve a higher minimum wage and crack down on bad acting subcontracting firms like Eulen. We deserve basic workplace rights in exchange for the work we do to support passengers every day, and Senator Booker understands that. We hope this sends a clear message to Eulen that we will continue fighting for our rights to be respected.”