July 22, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – More than 1,000 low-paid security officers, baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants at JFK and LaGuardia airports will walk off the job at 10 p.m. Wednesday night to protest on-the-job harassment and full-time wages so low, that food stamps and homeless shelters are the only way some can survive.
"They have no other choice to change the behavior of a company that has repeatedly violated their rights and the law," SEIU 32BJ President Hector Figueroa said following the strike announcement at union headquarters on Tuesday morning.
Six members of the New York City Council, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito came out in support of the strike directed at Delta Airlines' contractor Aviation Safeguards.
"It's unfortunate that we have to be here, but we have an employer that has not acted in good faith," the speaker said.
Councilman David Greenfield [D-44th District] was even more critical of Aviation Safeguards, saying that the company's continued abuse of its employers is flat out "embarrassing."
"Every single New Yorker should be ashamed about what's going on – I know I am," the Brooklyn legislator said.
Aviation Safeguards is by no means the only airport contractor widely criticized for its poverty wages and mistreatment of workers attempting to organize – but it is the largest.
"We don't live – we survive," Aviation Safeguards employee Juan Chapman said. "Nobody making $10.10 an hour can live in liberty, but the company doesn't recognize that right. They use scare tactics to intimidate us."
This week's job action comes after a long three-year campaign to lift airport worker wages – something that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has already promised would happen.
Councilman Jimmy Van Brammer [D-26th District] said that he personally got a taste of Aviation Safeguards' disregard for employees when he attended an earlier demonstration decrying the company's ongoing misdeeds.
"They were rude and disrespectful to myself, and to the other members who were there that day," Councilman Van Bramer said.
Despite the company's belligerent stance and threats of termination, airport security officer Michael Carey said that he is not afraid to fight.
"I've already lost family because I cannot support them properly, so I'm not going to walk away," Carey told LaborPress.
Airport workers are taking the bold action to strike on Wednesday at the same time they see workers in the fast food industry make tremendous strides in realizing a $15 an hour minimum wage.
"This is about much more than getting more money, it's about dignity and respect," Figueroa added. "These are the people whom we entrust our lives when we travel, and yet employers continue to treat them as if they are undeserving of the least minimum rights."
Donna Hampton commutes five hours each day from her Jersey City home to her job as a JFK security officer. Like Carey, she says that she is absolutely resolute, and in the fight for the long haul.
"I don't need much sleep in fight like this," Hampton told LaborPress. "We need to be heard. We deserve respect."