March 23, 2017
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – More than forty workers from Terminal 7 and Terminal 4 at JFK airport rallied outside Terminal 7 on Tuesday, March 20th, demanding that SSP, which operates branded catering and retail units as a concessionaire at over 125 airports and 270 train stations worldwide, negotiate a fair contract and provide workers job security.
SSP had just taken over concessions management from HMS Host in Terminal 7. HMS Host is a highway and airport food-service company. With HMS Host, the JFK workers were able to bargain collectively to ensure benefits like seniority and wage increases. But now, under SSP, workers don’t know what their wages will be.
Winfred Jonas, a unionized worker at Terminal 7, and a food prep worker at Balducci’s for the past seven years, said, “They haven’t told us what our wages will be. We’ve heard they want to pay us $11/per hour. People here now make $13 to $16 per hour.” Jonas made $12.50 per hour under HMS Host. “We’ve heard cooks will get $12 per hour. They’ve been here seven, ten years.”
SSP also wants to do away with seniority, and, in fact, the union entirely. “Of course they do,” says Jonas, “because it’s there for the workers.” She is also worried about what such a wage change would do to her ability to pay her bills. “I have a family, I have kids. My rent is $1300 a month. I live in Brooklyn and have to commute all the way here. How will I pay for my Metrocard? It will make a big difference.”
Gerald Jolivain, who has worked at Terminal 7 for 22 years, makes $15 an hour. He also does not know what his salary will be, and is worried about how he will make ends meet. Jose Maldonado, Secretary Treasurer of 15,000 member strong Local 100, said that airport workers were fundamental to airports, and that they, like Jolivain and Jonas, have loyally served airports like JFK for years. “It is time that they are treated with respect and dignity by all companies but especially those who are new to the terminal,” he said.
Mauro Diaz, a bartender at Terminal 4, whose workers are getting ready to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, is hopeful that SSP will do the right thing. “We work here and are a part of this community,” he said. “We deserve respect and dignity.”