About 1,200 LaGuardia and JFK security workers, baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants working for Delta, United and British Airways are set to strike at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Aviation Safeguards, a subsidiary of Command Security Corp., "has repeatedly violated their federal rights to organize," and "the workers decided they have to take a stand" with an overwhelming majority voting for the strike Monday night, said Rob Hill, a vice-president with 32BJ SEIU. Aviation Safeguards has been the subject of three complaints from the National Labor Relations Board, said Hill.
"We are not anti-union: We are pro-employee," and both Aviation Security and Command Security have had union representation in other company sectors, said Craig Coy, CEO of Command Security. Coy declined to speak to the NLRB complaints, but said "we pay wages established by the Port Authority and offer health care benefits that we subsidize: Most of our employees are full time, so we're paying above minimum compensation."
The workers would also like the Port Authority to increase the $10.10 an hour minimum for airport workers - which tends to be the salary all airport contract employees receive, said Hill.
"The Port Authority has taken significant steps in recent years to encourage wage and benefit increases for employees of airline contractors at its airports, and will work to avoid disruptions of airline operations," a Port Authority spokeswoman said in a statement.
"Our experience is most people don't participate," in strikes, said Coy, who said his firm had contingency plans in place. He said he did not expect travelers to encounter disruptions.
About 300 of the employees expected to strike work at United and British Airways with the rest working at Delta, said Hill. He added that the airline practice of subcontracting out an increasing number of tasks has resulted in an erosion of wages and benefits for people.
"These used to be middle class jobs," said Hill.