Travelers headed through John F. Kennedy International Airport can breathe a sigh of relief, as, for now, security workers will remain on the job.
Employees of the Air Serv and Global Elite security organizations had voted unanimously to go on strike starting Thursday, December 20, right before the airport’s holiday rush. However, in response, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey asked the disgruntled protestors to call off their strike and, furthermore, asked contractors to meet with them.
On Tuesday, December 18, security workers opted to halt the work stoppage.
Both groups previously filed complaints with the Transportation Security Authority (TSA), but to no avail. The complaints, filed several months ago, cited problems with officials making workers cut corners during security procedures, along with substandard working conditions.
Since submitting the complaints, organization officials have “interrogated” workers, and forbid them to talk to the media, according to Prince Jackson, a three-year employee of Air Serv.
But the workers instead united, joining together along with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, and authorized a strike at a rally on Thursday, December 13. Global Elite followed suit the next day.
Jackson said that since the Port Authority intervened just days after the strike authorization, employees have agreed to “hold off” their strike, pending talks with officials.
“We look forward to discussing our concerns with the contractors,” he said.
At a previous rally in October, Air Serv and Global Elite workers picketed outside of JFK, chanting for change. Global Elite employees said that many times, officials have them rush through inspections of an aircraft after it lands.
“Inspecting an aircraft should take 30 to 40 minutes, but we’re given 10 minutes for most flights, I don’t think it’s safe,” said Yonathan Verasteguy of Global Elite.
Despite a mandate for all airport security officers to thoroughly inspect each plane, many times employees are not permitted the proper amount of time to do so. For many turnaround flights, they must sweep through an aircraft quickly so as not to delay the following flight out.
Global Elite responded to employees’ concerns in a statement, saying they have always maintained an open dialogue with workers and go to great lengths to ensure a positive work environment.
Similarly, Air Serv stated they value employees’ input on matters of concern to them, and will be speaking with workers on these matters in the coming days and weeks. However, they also claim that officials became aware of these issues just last week.
A TSA spokesperson said that they did conduct an investigation, and found no regulatory violations but will continue to monitor the situation.
There is no set date for workers to sit with security contractors. The security officers at Global and Air Serv are, in the meantime, forming a labor organization to fight against suppression of their rights.