Airport workers at seven of the busiest U.S. hubs plan to strike on Wednesday night and Thursday over what they say are bad wages and threats against unionizing.
Some 2,000 plane cleaners, baggage handlers and other workers will strike at New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, as well as Newark Liberty, Chicago O’Hare, Boston, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said.
The walkout comes just before air travel picks up for the Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. airlines American, United, Delta and JetBlue said they do not expect the action to impact their operations.
The strikers work for companies that U.S. carriers contract for some airport operations. That means pilots, flight attendants and in-house baggage handlers are not taking part in the action.
“We don’t receive enough money to pay the rent,” said Damaso Mejia, a worker involved with the SEIU who cleans and checks plane interiors for suspicious objects at New York Kennedy for $10.10 an hour.
He said he will start working a second job next month and will log 18-hour days to supplement his income.
The walkout has been in the works since the SEIU, which seeks to unionize these workers, sponsored a convention in Washington a month ago for airport workers to discuss their concerns. The SEIU said some workers perceived threats against organizing.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and several congressmen will attend a news conference in Washington on Thursday to garner support for $15 hourly wages, the union said. Rallies are to take place at other U.S. airports.
On Tuesday the SEIU endorsed Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton for the November 2016 election. Clinton said last month in a letter to the SEIU, seen by Reuters, that “airport jobs should be good jobs – and together, we can make sure they are.”
Plans by some New York airport workers to strike in July, supported by the SEIU, were called off after a last-minute agreement with their employer, Command Security Corp.
(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin; Editing by Sandra Maler and Tom Brown)