Newark, New Jersey (December 2022) –Newark International Airport Swissport Cargo service workers came together for a 24-hour strike and rally in response to the companies’ wage theft and unfair labor practices.
The strike began today at midnight, when 8 workers from the nightshift began picketing outside the 340 building of EWR’s Cargo area with pickets at 12am, 5am, 11am, 1pm and a rally at 1:30 pm. At the rally, the workers were joined by City of Newark Council President Lamonica McIver, City of Newark Councilwoman Louise Roundtree, and City of Newark Councilman Patrick Council, as well as community allies such as Unite Here.
Earlier this year, Swissport Cargo workers at Newark International Airport filed a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Labor alleging that the company failed to pay the $4.60 per hour health and welfare supplemental benefit defined in the New Jersey Healthy Terminals Act. The Healthy Terminals Act, which went into effect in September of 2021, requires employers at Newark International Airport to contribute $4.60 per hour (later raised to $4.80/hour) towards the cost of health insurance for their workers, or else to pay the workers an additional $4.60 (now $4.80) as part of their wages. The DOL is currently investigating the complaint. Additionally, in October 2022, SEIU 32BJ filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against Swissport Cargo Services, L.P., alleging that the company coercively interrogated employees who supported forming a union, as well as retaliated against a union supporter by allowing vandalism of her car in a company parking lot.
“People rely on our work to get their holiday gifts to get to their loved ones, & we work hard during this busy time of year. We are fighting because we deserve to be paid fairly for our labor so we can provide for our families too,” said Osaugue Aibangbee, Swissport Cargo worker and leader. “We want coercive interrogations to end. We want to come to work without fear of questioning or enforcement of unreasonable rules.”
“The passage of the Healthy Terminals Act has greatly improved the working conditions for the predominantly Black and immigrant workers at the airport, who have been on the front lines of the pandemic since day one and have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said 32BJ’s Executive Vice President and NJ State Director Kevin Brown. “The company was breaking the law and with the support of the union, the workers received some type of relief earlier this year. But it is not enough. We continue fighting alongside them to see they are paid properly as well as put an end to unfair labor practices and retaliation tactics. These tactics are not only illegal, but inhumane.”
Parallel to the strike, workers who clean planes, handle baggage, assist wheelchair passengers and more from 15 airports came together on December 8th to demand their members of Congress take action to pass the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act, which will ensure airport service workers have a living wage, benefits, and health care. Nationwide activity is planned at airports controlling 45% of all U.S. domestic air travel and 65% of all U.S. travel through major hubs.