NYC-Area, Philadelphia Airport Workers Suspend Strike While Washington Workers Authorize One
A thousand airport workers in Philadelphia and the New York City-area have suspended a strike after walking off the job at 9PM Tuesday night. The workers are employed by PrimeFlight, a subcontractor of American Airlines. Both companies reached out last night to return to the bargaining table.
Service Employees International Union 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol says that at JFK, Primeflight refused to bargain in good faith despite being ordered to by a district court:
[Shirley Aldebol]: “Even after that order, when they came back to the table, they illegally threatened workers for participating in bargaining. We’ve been trying to get an election at LaGuardia airport. They have basically openly said that even if the workers prevail they have no intention of bargaining with us. They continue to engage in anti-union, illegal tactics to intimidate and bully the workers. The workers have basically had enough and voted to strike. You know, if PrimeFlight continues to refuse to bargain with the union, we’re gonna be back out there. We’re gonna have to resume the strike.”
The workers are negotiating over issues including job security, respect for seniority and health and safety concerns:
[Shirley Aldebol]: “It’s basically dignity and respect on the job that you only get when you have a union and you have a contract.”
After months of talks, 200 low-wage cleaners represented by the same union have also voted to authorize a strike at the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. after their employer refused to provide affordable healthcare and an income that keeps up with the airport’s living wage.
While the New York and Philadelphia workers work for contractors hired by the airlines; the Washington workers are sub-contracted by the Airport Authority directly. SEIU 32BJ Spokesperson Julie Karant:
[Julie Karant] “A lot of the men and women in the airport don’t work directly for the airlines or the airport. In an attempt to save money back in the eighties under Reagan they went to a subcontracting system. One of their cost-cutting measures is by lowering wages and benefits for these workers. And whether or not it’s the airlines that hire these workers or the Airport Authority directly, these contractors are all lowering standards for these workers. These are workers doing backbreaking work to keep the airports clean, and it’s not much to ask to have affordable health care and livable wages.”