Workers say they’re denied Paid Sick Days, blamed for delays after being given only 6 minutes to clean planes
New York, NY — Councilmember Tiffany Caban, NY Senator Jessica Ramos and others joined LaGuardia airport workers, employed by the major airline contractor, Swissport USA, at a rally to announce unfair practice labor charges and Paid Sick Day violations. Almost a dozen ramp workers and cabin cleaners, who service Spirit, Air Canada, JetBlue and other airlines, were suspended and one fired after protesting disgusting working conditions, including being sprayed with human feces when emptying out the plane bathrooms with broken and cracked equipment. Overworked and exhausted workers also say they are denied Paid Sick Days and sick pay as required by New York City law, as well being blamed for delays even though they are given just a few minutes to clean, while doing double duty as ramp agents. Livestream video of the event can be seen HERE. Click HERE for pictures.
LIVESTREAM VIDEO: http://bit.ly/3lrcTq6
“I’ve been suspended twice after speaking out about the paid sick day violations and horrible working conditions. My supervisor called me a ‘knucklehead’ and told us, we should leave the job if we don’t like the working conditions,” said Omar Ramirez, a Swissport USA cabin cleaner and ramp agent who says he was interrogated by his supervisor over his union activities. “It’s not just the blatant disrespect. I help support my mom, but I’ve been suspended for three weeks now. I can’t pay my bills.”
“I was denied my sick pay, even though I had a crippling migraine and a doctor’s note,” said Chad Infiesta, a Swissport USA worker who is about to get evicted after getting fired the day after attending a December protest. “I’ve been through so much. I had to work through injuries and pain because I was the only person in the bag room, lifting hundreds of bags a day. I even had the contents of an entire plane latrine empty out on top of me because we’re working with broken equipment.”
Chad, Omar, and other airport workers announced unfair labor practice charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the Swissport USA’s retaliation “against its workforce for its union and protected” activities, including a “disciplinary crackdown targeting leading union activists.” The workers will also announce complaints filed with the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection alleging that workers were not paid when they attempted to use accrued paid time off, in violation of the City’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law.
“Given the crisis at our nation’s airports, Swissport should be spending its time and resources on ensuring secure and timely travel for passengers, rather than retaliating against workers who are simply fighting for safer and better jobs. Cabin cleaners, ramp workers and other contracted airport workers are crucial to the proper functioning of air travel. We want to encourage workers to speak up and stand with their coworkers. If they care about safe and consistent air travel, Swissport should address their workers’ demands and ensure they have sufficient staff, working equipment, and adequate health and safety protections. This not only enables better passenger service, but ensures we retain experienced workers who care about their jobs and keep airports running.
The elected officials and Swissport workers called on the airlines to work with responsible contractors who will respect the workers that make travel, and their profits, possible.
The Swissport USA workers are organizing with 32BJ SEIU, which represents 18,000 contracted airline workers up and down the East Coast. They are part of Airport Workers United, a movement to unionize and raise standards for contracted airline workers who have struggled for years with low wages and meager benefits.
Last December, LGA airport workers joined others at protests in 15 major airports, calling for better pay and working conditions, as well as the passage of the Good Jobs for Good Airports Bill.
The law, sponsored by Senator Markey and co-sponsored by Senator Schumer, among many others, will ensure airport service jobs at our publicly-funded airports have national minimum wage and benefit standards that will help stabilize the workforce, keeping airports secure and travelers on time. According to a 2017 UC Berkeley study, better wages encourage employee retention and improve productivity and airport security.
With more than 175,000 members in 12 states, including 18,000 contracted airline workers, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.