Airport workers strike at JFK Airport protesting contractors unfair labor practices

Photo by Jeff Yapalater

Airport workers for Eulen America, an airline contractor for American Airlines and Delta, went on strike Thursday morning at JFK International Airport and three other major airports.

Protesters complain that Eulen America has a long history of mistreatment of their almost exclusively immigrant workforce including allegations that it retaliated against workers for speaking out and practices unfair labor practices.

Last month, elected officials joined with baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants as they rallied at City Hall claiming the company had forced them to use up paid sick leave that they had accrued in 2018. New York City law clearly authorizes workers to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time per year.

The workers filed complaints with the city Department Of Consumer and Workforce Protection.

“We were badly understaffed because workers were forced to use up their paid sick leave,” JFK and Eulen Passenger Verification Agent Whitney Moore said, “Those of us working our shifts had to do everything, whether it’s in our job description or not. We work hard to support travelers and all we are asking is that our employer follows the law and respects us.”

Eulen baggage runner Levelle Lindsay said the challenge the workers face is when they are forced to use up the time they carried over from the previous uear means that, in case of emergency, they won’t have time to use immediately.

“Isn’t the law supposed to make it easier for workers like me to take sick leave when we need it, not when it’s convenient for our employer to have us use the time?” he said.

Eulen America dismissed the job action saying all sevices were provided and the was no disruption to their passengers. Eulen America CEO Xavier Rabell claimed his workers did not go on strike at any of the airports.

“The union PR campaign is using non-Eulen workers in their protests locally to create confusion,” Rabell said. “We do not object at all if our employees wish to unionize. No on needs to mislead the public about our company in order to choose the right to collective bargaining. What we do object to is inaccurate and unfair characterizations about us and how we treat our team members.

The action at JFK, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Washington D.C. came after Eulen America was the subject of a Congressional roundtable discussion which featured an expose on the inhumane and hazardous working conditions for airport workers in Miami. When asked about the poor working conditions there, Rabell said, “I am not the right person to ask. I am the CEO.”

A growing list of elected officials have called for American Airlines and Delta to demand Eulen America change its practices or hire a new contractor.

“The way Eulen America conducts itself at JFK International Airport is hurting Queens neighborhoods,” City Councilman Donovan Richards said. “We can’t have working families being mistreated or having their rights violated by their own employer. Eulen America has an obligation to treat these workers with dignity and respect and to obey city and state laws. This is why I am here today supporting these workers exercising their rights to be heard.”

The airport workers ended their 24-hour walkout and returned to the following morning with Eulen America respecting federal law, which requires them to allow workers back to their posts after the legally protected strike.

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