Airport workers from John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty Airport held simultaneous rallies at Terminal 8 in Queens and Terminal A in Newark on Monday to protest against airline contractor Eulen America for violating their right to organize with 32BJ SEIU.
“Organizing and unions are as American as apple pie,” said Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona). “Let us remind people why we have the 40-hour workweek, why we have paid sick leave, why we have a vacation, why worker safety legislation was passed to protect our workers, its because it all started on a union picket line.”
Eulen employees have accused their employer of intimidation and coercion at work because they have expressed their support in being in a union after many workplace violations, such as not accommodating a pregnant co-worker with a chair, being forced to use paid sick leave or risk losing it, and not receiving uniform allowance as required under law, according to 32BJ SEIU, one of the largest unions in the country.
“What century are we living in that a company doesn’t give the basic accommodation to a pregnant employee,” said Moya. “It’s shameful that this company comes here and doesn’t respect the right to organize and is using intimidation tactics.”
Employees of the Spanish-owned contractor reported that supervisors have cornered them, sometimes in bathrooms, and spies on them, according to 32BJ SEIU.
“Collective bargaining, the right to strike all came from and people don’t think about it,” said Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth). “Five-day work week, an eight-hour workday, child labor laws all were paid for by the blood and sweat of unions and people trying to be in unions.”
Eulen America employees deserve basic rights, according to Barnwell.
“I’m going to continue to look at what companies use Eulen to do their work,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria). “It is your right to be here, it is your right to fight for your rights.”
Workers in New York have been filing complaints against Eulen to the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection since May.
“We are back Eulen, we are back,” said Councilwoman Adrienne Adams. “We don’t want to be back for these horrible, horrible circumstances, but guess what, we will fight until they hear us until they move and until they do right by the workers.”
Two weeks ago lawyers representing Eulen have accused the workers of being mistaken about the practices at the company and of making up some of their accusations, according to Adams.
“His lawyer wanted a meeting with me and I said, ‘hell no,'” added Adams. “Not until you do right by the workers who sacrifice on a daily basis for you and their family, your workers who demand fair wages, your workers who demand to be treated respectfully in the workplace, your workers who are getting hurt on the job because they are doing the right thing by you, but you are doing wrong to them.”
Lasonia Whervin, 22, a resident of South Ozone resident and wheelchair agent simply wants better working conditions from her employer.
“We want a union so we can have a voice in the workplace. A union will allow us to correct a lot of the problems out here,” said Whervin. “Managers, when they suspect we have been organizing, they corner us and interrogate us. They say bad things about the union, but we know the truth. A union is our best path to paid vacation, good health insurance and better pay.’