32BJ of the SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 1, 2023
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EWR Airport Workers Allege Unsafe Conditions in OSHA Complaint that Exposes Swissport Companies’ Hazardous Workplace Conditions
Service and cargo workers at EWR added their demands for proper PPE and workplace safety to allegations made by workers in six different cities
Complaint comes as airport service workers nationwide demand Congress include ‘Good Job for Good Airports Act’ wage and benefit standards in upcoming FAA Reauthorization
[Newark, NJ] – Airport workers at EWR rallied Thursday to fight for safe working conditions at EWR and to demand improved safety standards for employees. At the press conference, airport workers unveiled hazardous conditions they’ve been forced to endure– from having to drive vehicles with faulty brakes to having to deal with rats and roaches in breakrooms, in addition to chemical exposures – after they formally filed complaints with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) against global ground handling provider Swissport.
Swissport is a repeat offender because OSHA has previously cited it for unsafe working conditions.
As broad dysfunction continues to plague our air travel system and major airlines, have failed to fix the chaos they’ve created, subcontracted airport service workers and elected officials are banding together nationwide to demand the majority Black, brown and immigrant workforce has fair wages and benefits included in FAA Reauthorization. The EWR workers’ complaints come as service workers around the nation are calling for a seat at the table and a reckoning across a system that’s allowed airlines to continue to make record profits while leaving passengers and workers to contend with mountains of lost luggage, canceled flights and widespread delays.
During Thursday’s event, airport workers were joined by leaders, allies and officials as they demanded critical protections on the job and called out major airlines and Swissport for failing to invest in the very workers who help make air travel possible.
SEIU 32BJ NJ State Director and Executive Vice President Kevin Brown said: “We stand with all Black, brown and immigrant airport service workers at EWR who are being treated unjustly by Swissport. We will fight to ensure that all Newark airport service workers have the dignity of a safe working environment. The issues raised in the OSHA complaint need to be rectified immediately to ensure that these vital airport workers are safe from harm.”
Swissport, which provides cargo services for United Airlines, has created an unsafe work environment that these workers allege they have had to endure to get planes in the air safely and on time.
EWR airport workers’ demands were echoed last week in a series of actions in Boston, Washington D.C., LaGuardia and at three additional airports, as workers in these cities took steps to hold corporations accountable. Chief among the demands of these workers is congressional action to include the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act’s nationwide wage and benefit standards in the upcoming FAA reauthorization. By requiring wages of at least $15/hr, healthcare, and paid time off, the Good Jobs for Good Airports standards would help stabilize the air travel industry by ensuring airport service jobs are good jobs you can support a family on.
Swissport Cargo Agent Kim Ikner said: “Airport workers like me are fed up with corporate greed that’s harming workers on the job, and we’re fighting harder than ever before to demand safe working conditions, fair wages and benefits like affordable healthcare that would let us live with dignity and best support our families. Together with airport service workers across the country, we’re taking action to make our voices heard and to stand up to major airlines and companies like Swissport Cargo who need to improve our working conditions. Our fight isn’t over until every airport service worker has living wages, safer working conditions, and a voice on the job through a union.”
Executive Director of NYCOSH Charlene Obernauer said: “Swissport International AG has a record of OSHA violations and poor safety and health conditions that need to be addressed to protect workers from harm properly. Today’s press conference called for the company to step up and do the right thing to provide healthy jobs for its workers—it’s that simple.”
EWR airport workers join a growing list of workers calling out Swissport companies for poor working conditions. Last month, the National Council of Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) also named Swissport International AG among their 2023 “Dirty Dozen” employers with unsafe work practices due to the company’s alarming history of health and safety violations.
With 175,000 members in twelve states and Washington, D.C., including 13,000 in New Jersey, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.