New York (March 12, 2015) – More than 100 baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and security officers marched on Delta, British Airways and Aviation Safeguards offices at JFK today to call out subcontractor Aviation Safeguards for violating workers’ rights. During the last two years, the airline subcontractor’s employees have filed lawsuits and multiple complaints against their employer for wage theft, inadequate training and intimidation of workers trying to form a union.
“The company we work for does not respect us or the needs of our families,” said Pedro Gamboa, an Aviation Safeguard baggage handler who went on strike last month to protest the company’s unfair labor practices. “Well, this is America, and I am not afraid to exercise my rights. This isn’t just my fight or just my co-workers’ fight. This is a fight for anyone who believes that our work should have dignity.”
During their rally and march today the workers were joined by Councilman Donovan Richards, clergy, community members and other airport workers who decried the poverty wages, unaffordable health care, wage theft, unfair labor practices and faulty equipment that Aviation Safeguards employees have been fighting to change.
“I am proud to stand on behalf Aviation Safeguard baggage handlers to demand better wages and safer working conditions,” Council Member Donovan Richards. “After years of posting record profits Delta and British Airways can afford to provide workers with a living wage. Today I call on the executives of these companies to do the right thing, and provide better jobs for hard working New Yorkers.”
On February 12, 2015 Aviation Safeguards baggage handlers at JFK airport held a strike over unfair labor practices, but the company’s employees at other sites reported similar issues.
Aviation Safeguards employees have been fighting along with 12,000 other subcontracted airport workers in New York and New Jersey for higher wages, benefits and the right to union representation and are part of a mass movement of airport workers who have been organizing in cities around the country. The majority of subcontracted airport workers also report experiencing financial hardship due to the low wages and benefits they make at the airports and the majority are forced to rely on government subsidies to survive.
Aviation Safeguards employees currently have a wage and hour lawsuit against the company and were among the 88% of airport workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports who reported at least one form of wage theft in the last year. The company’s baggage handlers have also recently been outspoken about Aviation Safeguards failure to provide cold-weather gear or heat in their workspaces during the frigid winter months. But when workers began speaking up and organizing for better lives, they began to face intimidation and threats from their employer. Today Aviation Safeguards employees said enough is enough. They are urging the company to follow the law and are calling on British Airways and Delta to urge Aviation Safeguards to fly right!
“British Airways and Delta should urge their contractor to do the right thing,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ, which has been helping airport workers to organize. “New York-area airports should be good airports for us all, whether we work in them or travel through them.”
With more than 145,000 members, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service union in the country