Eulen airport workers are back to work after a 24-hour strike.
NEW YORK, N.Y. – On Tuesday morning, union members walked Eulen American workers at JFK Airport back into work after the culmination of their 24-hour strike. The group of union members wanted to ensure workers returned with no incident or further violation of their rights. Employees of Eulen America, a subcontractor at Terminal 8 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, walked off the job on Monday to demand that their employer, Eulen America, treat workers with respect. The baggage handlers, FIS (Federal Inspection Services) agents, passenger verification agents and wheelchair agents went on strike to protest the company violating workers’ right to organize by intimidating, coercing, disrespecting and spying on workers on the job.
The walk backs went smoothly, with federal labor law requiring Eulen to allow workers back to their posts after the legally protected strike.
Eulen’s JFK employees began picketing at about 10:00am at Terminal 8 on Monday fed up with interrogation and intimidation tactics by their employer who is violating their rights to organize a union. They workers held two public events during Monday’s strike with 32BJ SEIU and Council Member Adrienne Adams, Council Member Francisco Moya, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, Assembly Member Michelle Solages and Assembly Member Jaime Williams.
“Managers, when they suspect we have been organizing for a union, corner and interrogate us,” Lasonia Whervin, wheelchair agent for Eulen said. “They say bad things about the union. But we know the truth: a union is our best path to good health insurance, better pay and paid vacation.”
“Eulen workers are striking because they demand the right to organize,” Rob Hill, Vice President and Director of Organizing for 32BJ SEIU said. “From New York to Miami, Eulen America needs to follow the law. Eulen workers are striking to show that lawbreaking and disrespect will no longer be tolerated. Eulen workers are not going to take these abuses lying down. Eulen has responded to workers’ organizing efforts with threats, intimidation, retaliation, and surveillance. As the claims against Eulen continue to grow, we will be out here, fighting for our rights.”
Elected officials also addressed workers at the picket line.
“When we stood on the steps of City Hall a few weeks ago, we told Eulen we’d be back,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams during a rally. “We don’t want to be back under these horrible circumstances, but we’ll fight until they hear us and do right by the workers.”
“I was out here in June, and we’re back now, Edward Braunstein, Assembly Member said. “Workers are asking for dignity and respect, these are simple things. We’re going to keep coming back until Eulen backs down and until we’re organized. At the end of the day, we’re going to be victorious.”
“It’s shameful that this company comes here and doesn’t respect the right to organize by using intimidation tactics. But a lot of people here are going to stop that,” Council Member Francisco Moya said. “We’ve got hardworking legislators who stand up for our brothers and sisters in labor. If Eulen thinks that you, the workers, are not worth it, well, we have a message for them. We will do everything possible to stop this kind of intimidation that happens in the workplace.”
“It’s a violation of workers’ rights to spy on and intimidate workers. It’s a violation of workers’ rights to retaliate for organizing,” Aravella Simotas, Assembly Member said. “It is your right to fight for your rights and I am so happy to support you. I will be here until this fight is won.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the region’s airports, has committed vast sums to infrastructure improvements at Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airports and in the last few years, tens of thousands of New York and New Jersey airport workers have won wage increases and union representation. Workers at JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports who won union representation with Local 32BJ SEIU have seen their employers change their practices and improve airport jobs to the benefit of workers and passengers alike. But, across the three airports and around the nation, there remain pockets of low-road airline sub-contractors that still suppress the hope and aspirations of workers for a voice in the workplace and stable, good jobs to support them, their families and their communities.
Eulen America is one of these bad actors a long history of mistreatment of their almost exclusively immigrant workforce, including allegations that it retaliated against workers for speaking out. The contractor that provides passenger services to American Airlines and other airlines has an alarming history of unfair labor practice complaints, allegations of retaliation, unpaid wages and health and safety problems on the job. The contractor has seen a drumbeat of complaints from employees not just in the New York region airports, but also in Florida and Washington, D.C where airport workers have reported similar harassment and intimidation tactics as those that led to the strike at JFK this week. In the past year alone, several former Eulen workers have filed lawsuits in Florida alleging discrimination based on race or age, pregnancy and sexual harassment and others have also filed health and safety complaints over hazardous working conditions, paid sick leave complaints, uniform allowance complaints across the country.
With 175,000 members in 11 states, including 85,000 in New York, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country