Airport workers at John F. Kennedy International Airport that were hired from Eulen America, an airline contractor, were let go last month and demanded their personal records last week in order to prove they were allegedly fired for fighting to unionize.
“They tried to unionize and they were involved in that process,” Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Far Rockaway, Laurelton) said to a staff member of Eulen while aiding the workers in retrieving their records at JFK Airport. “We have a lot of questions on why they were fired and that’s why we are here.”
Lasonia Whervin, South Ozone Park, was one of the three women that were fired by Eulen America, which is a principal contractor of America Airlines, according to 32BJ SEIU, the union that the workers have been organizing around.
“The reason that they fired me was that they wanted to scare the rest of the workers at the job, so they know if they try to fight for a union this is how it will end,” said the wheelchair agent. “You are going to get terminated.”
Whervin was fighting for a uniform allowance, which the company is legally supposed to provide for its workers. She also just wanted respect at work.
“For the couple of us that were trying to get a union they would harass us every single day,” said Whervin. “I just didn’t like how they treated other workers.”
At one point, the company tried to allegedly accuse Whervin of discriminating against Spanish workers.
“The company will outright lie,” said Whervin. “They said we discriminated against Spanish workers because they speak Spanish. That just isn’t true.”
Whervin, who was fired Nov. 12, right before the start of the holiday season, hopes that her treatment will open her former co-workers’ eyes.
“This is how they will treat you,” said Whervin. “They would just get up and fire you at any time for no reason.”
When Whervin and the other women tried to receive their records to learn why they were fired, she said they were told to ask to speak to someone at Eulen Americas headquarters in Florida.
“I was a good worker,” said Whervin. “From the day I started, they could never say I went out and disrespected them, even though I was still trying to get a union.”
Whervin, a mother of a 2-year-old said that she had no warning and even worked for 30 minutes before the company terminated her.
“They said that TSA and American Airlines wanted her to get fired,” said Whervin. “They said I was in some involvement with some TSA officer.”
A week before she was fired on Nov. 12, one of the other women that were fired was allegedly being harassed by a TSA worker while picking up luggage for a wheelchair-bound client and exchanged words with the federal worker that was later reported.
Instead of Eulen defending her co-worker, the incident was allegedly used as a means to fire the three women who were vocal about unionizing with 32BJ SEIU.
“They say they have some video recording of me,” said Whervin, “but I didn’t even say anything.”
Eulen America and American Airlines declined to comment on the matter.
“I spoke with the TSA worker later and she said that she didn’t want to get anybody fired, she wanted us to come together and talk,” said Whervin. “I was just around the area where the incident happened.”
Whervin’s son has a birthday on Christmas Eve and with the holiday following the next day, she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to get him anything this year while she is relying on her mom to help support her.
Whervin is also the only one of the three co-workers to get unemployment.
“I know they feel guilty,” said Whervin. “They know they have no exact reason to fire me.”
Rob Hill, the director of organizing at 32BJ SEIU, has been helping the airport workers.
“There have been three strikes at Eulen, two in the last year,” said Hill. “The response by the union is to fire them for union activity, which is illegal.”
They want what every other worker wants, according to Hill.
“We are going to continue to fight until Eulen is a union in New York, and everywhere else,” said Hill. “They are completing violating the law here and American shouldn’t be tolerating them.”