New York, NY—Contracted JFK Airport security officers, supported by South East Queens community and city elected leaders, came together Thursday to protest against airline contractors Global Elite and Air Serv for trying to silence workers.
The JFK Security Officers held a demonstration at Terminal 4 on Thursday, speaking out for worker and passenger safety, better training, equipment and conditions. They then marched to Terminal 3 with their mouths gagged.
The security officers, who are building a labor organization to fight against suppression of worker rights, said the gag is a symbolic protest against the ways Global Elite and Air Serv have been trying to silence workers.
The security officers complained to TSA that Global Elite cuts corners in inspections of aircrafts and that Air Serv did not properly train security officers for their posts or supply them with functioning equipment to do their jobs in Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 8.
Global Elite’s upper management sought to meet with security officers interviewed by The New York Times and other media about the TSA complaint. The contractor then sent a memorandum to employees the same day telling them their employee handbook prohibited them from “speaking with members of the press.”
“No employee may act as a spokesman or make statements to news or other media on behalf of or about the company without the prior approval of the President,” Global Elite Human Resources Director Audrey Villani said in the memo. “All requests for information and/or statements should be directed to the President or Human Resources.”
Global Elite security officers say despite management’s action, they are not afraid to stand up for their rights.
“Rather than seriously deal with the issues that we are bringing forward, first Global called us liars on TV, they then tried to gag us,” Global security officer Nadia Louis said. “We will not be silenced.”
Air Serv security officers said the contractor’s Employee Handbooks similarly prohibit workers from discussing their wages with each other, the media and the public.
“I have worked as a Security Officer for Air Serv for nearly three years,” Ellen Abrams said. “The wages are so low, I need to work two airport jobs, 16 hours a day just to survive. I am a single mother with three children, but I never get to see them because I am always working at the airport. We have a right to speak out against these conditions.”
With more than 125,000 members, including 15,000 private security officers, 32BJ is the largest security officers union in the country.