The strike of 1,200 workers at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports set to begin last night was averted after their employer, Aviation Safeguards, signed an agreement guaranteeing workers the right to organize and promised not to interfere in their decision to unionize.

"The Company believes that ultimately the decision is one made by our employees," Command Security Corp. (the parent company of Aviation Security) said in a statement. "AVSG will continue to remain neutral on whether our employees should be represented and by whom," the statement added.

The union acting on behalf of the workers, 32BJ SEIU declared that Aviation Safeguards "will recognize 32BJ as the employees' union of choice and agree to bargain a contract, if a majority of employees sign cards," authorizing 32BJ to represent them. Organizers believe they have more than enough votes to form a union. The strike was announced after management was alleged to have punished and harassed workers expressing union support.

The contract workers primarily work as baggage handlers, wheelchair escorts and security officers at Delta, although 300 are contracted to work at British Airways and United. Organizers plan to push for a wage of $15 (workers currently earn a Port Authority established minimum of $10.10) and more affordable health care coverage.

"Negotiations for a union contract are expected to begin this fall," 32BJ said in a statement.

The union was also critical of the Port Authority's refusal to hike the minimum wages for airport contract workers, noting that it had not acted to raise its minimum wage, despite entreaties. A spokeswoman for the Port Authority said yesterday the agency "has taken significant steps in recent years to encourage wage and benefit increases for employees of airline contractors at its airports."

The strike was to have begun at 10 p.m. last night.