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Logan airport workers strike ends after outpouring of support

Karen Morales
Logan airport workers strike ends after outpouring of support
City Councilor Lydia Edwards proposes resolution to support contract airport workers in Iannella Chamber at City Hall.

Contract workers employed by JetBlue subcontractors FSS and ReadyJet at Boston Logan Airport ended their strike for union representation, better wages and benefits after two days.

Contract airport workers and allies applaud and look on as the Boston City Council votes to pass resolution to support the workers’ strike.

Workers in a picket line last Wednesday outside of Airport Blue Line T station.

Although they have yet to reach an agreement with their employers, the workers met with Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration officials who said they would be putting pressure on MassPort and the two subcontractor companies to allow their workers to form a union.

The strike also gained support from Mayor Martin Walsh, Boston city councilors and state legislators Rep. Adrian Madaro and Sen. Joseph Boncore.

Amity Paye, spokeswoman for 32BJ SEIU, the service labor union that has helped organize the strike, said that the airport workers decided to end the strike “after seeing the amount of support on the local and state level.”

She added, “They haven’t seen that level of political support in the past.”

However, as the workers continue to meet with elected officials over the next couple of weeks to find a solution, Paye said, “Their fight isn’t over … they were very clear with that.”

The employees, who help run the airport as cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers and skycaps, began leaving their posts last Wednesday evening and allege that their employers have used threats, intimidation and illegal surveillance to interfere with their organizing for workplace changes.

They also say they have experienced 10-hour work days with only half-hour breaks and instances of wage theft from their companies.

During the previous week, about 100 airport workers had voted to strike, but it’s unclear how many participated over the two days, as airport officials said only a handful walked off, while strike organizers estimated the number to be more than 150.

In front of the Airport Blue Line T station last Wednesday night, around 35 airport workers and their allies marched in a picket line, as rain poured down, demanding justice.

One of the demonstrators, Sonia Ramirez, 46, described her experience working as a cabin cleaner. “We want a better future for our families and a better salary for everyone,” she told the Banner in Spanish. “We go to work whether it rains, snows, there’s a storm, whatever. They expect us to give our all, but for us, there are no benefits.”

Official support

Earlier that afternoon, District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards filed a resolution to support the airport workers and send a message to FSS and ReadyJet that “enough is enough.”

“The fact that these companies operate in such a way in this great city of Boston is shameful. We as a city council need to stand together and say, that is not how we allow business to be done here,” said Edwards, addressing her colleagues, the airport workers and 32BJ SEIU members in the Iannella Chamber in City Hall.

As the council voted unanimously to approve the resolution, At-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley offered additional remarks about why it was important. “It’s an affirmation and reiteration of our values,” she said.

She told the workers sitting in the public stands, “I want to thank every one of you for your bravery because we recognize you are risking your own livelihood and your ability to provide for your families.”

Mayor Walsh, Rep. Madaro and Sen. Boncore have publicly condemned FSS’ and ReadyJet’s business practices and voiced support for the workers.

“We and the companies owe you respect, we owe you fair treatment and the same rights every other person wants in their life, every single day,” said Walsh at a 32BJ SEIU press conference two weeks ago.

Previous violations

Both ReadyJet and FSS have been fined multiple times in the past for wage theft and safety violations at Logan Airport and charged by the National Labor Relations Board for interfering with workers’ right to organize.

Roxana Rivera, vice president of 32BJ SEIU, spoke with the Banner at City Hall last Wednesday.

“The workers want a fair process for them to be able to choose to have a union without interference from the company, without fear,” she said. “They provide critical services to passengers and they want to better those jobs so that it will make for a better and safer airport for everybody.”

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