(New York, NY)— Hundreds of cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners and wheelchair attendants at JFK Airport decided to postpone a strike they had planned in light of the horrific tragedy which unfolded today at the Brussels Airport and at a Brussels Metro station. Airport workers at nine other major hubs, including Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, and Washington, D.C., have also decided to postpone planned strikes until next week. In lieu of work site actions, airport workers will be coming together to pay their respects at a series of candle light vigils and memorial gatherings.
What: Airport Worker’s Brussels Solidarity Vigil
When: Wednesday March 23, 12pm
Where: JFK Airport, Terminal 5
Who: Airport workers, clergy, elected officials and community members will gather to honor the lives lost in Brussels this week.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families that lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy and our hearts go out to Brussels Airport workers, many of whom served as first responders during the attacks,” said Selwyn Baptiste, a wheelchair agent for JetBlue’s subcontractor Pax at JFK airport. “We all have to work together to make our airports as safe as possible.”
JFK airport workers planned to walk off the job late Tuesday night in protest of illegal intimidation tactics from their employers. Around the country Airport workers were ready to draw attention to the myriad issues they face at the workplace, including health and safety violations, unfair labor practices, and inadequate training. They are organizing as part of a national movement for better jobs, higher standards and improved airports.
“We need critical training to protect ourselves, other workers and the passengers if there were to be an emergency,” said security officer Sadaf Subijano, who has worked at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for 20 years. Despite playing a crucial role in helping to keep the airport safe, Subijano and her fellow officers working for Universal Security do not receive the critical training they need for their own safety and to protect other employees and the traveling public.
“As a union that represents nearly 20,000 contract airport service workers in over 30 U.S. airports, as well as security screeners at San Francisco International Airport, our union takes seriously the need to ensure the safety and security of U.S. airports,” said Valarie Long, SEIU International Executive Vice President. “SEIU supports efforts to improve airport safety and security through policies that set minimum labor and training standards for airport contractors and provide incentives for airport workers to stay in their jobs long-term. SEIU strongly believes that airports, the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders need to come together to develop national safety standards.”
Around the country, contracted airport workers have been coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies, raising their voices for $15 and union rights to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. By sticking together, speaking out for change, and going on strike, these workers have won wage increases in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale. Today, more than 70,000 workers nationwide have either received wages increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies as a result of the workers’ campaign.