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Workers from SFO Contractors Rally for Better Working Conditions

December 2015

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Bay Area members of Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) said they wanted to call attention to poor working conditions, including at United Airlines contractor AirServ Corporation.

Cabin cleaners and other contracted airport workers picketed at the United Airlines terminal at San Francisco International Airport November 19 in solidarity with airline contract workers who were on strike at airports around the US. The national day of action by SEIU airline workers saw wheelchair attendants and cabin and terminal cleaners in Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Newark, New York City and Philadelphia go out on strike.

A statement from the union noted that, “We work very hard to help generate $8 billion in profits for the airline industry yet we are paid so little that many of us can barely survive on the poverty wages that we received and are forced to rely on public assistance. But when we join together to call for changes to make our airports safe and secure for employees and the traveling public, our efforts are often met with harassment, intimidation, retaliation, and other bullying tactics from our employers.”

The striking workers and the Bay Area members of Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) said they wanted to call attention to poor working conditions and protest unfair labor practices by the contractors that employ them, including United Airlines contractor AirServ Corporation. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) cited AirServe for over 20 different health and safety violations October 6, resulting in fines of over $25,000. The contractor was cited for, among other things, failure to make Hepatitis vaccines available to all cabin cleaners and failure to ensure post-exposure evaluations for blood-borne pathogens.

SEIU-USWW Communications Director Steve Boardman said cabin cleaners can be exposed to blood borne pathogens on the job. “We want to highlight the health and safety violations,” he said. “The union is concerned for the health and safety of the AirServ employees and United Airlines passengers.”

The union itself began a series of national infectious disease preparedness trainings in October—joining the Labor Occupational Safety and Health at UCLA and Cal-OSHA in Los Angeles to equip baggage handlers, security officers, janitorial workers, cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants at LAX with the tools necessary to better tackle infectious diseases.
SEIU-USWW noted that, “While cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants in particular provide services that help minimize risks of possible contamination and provide services that protect travelers, other airport workers and the general public from possible infection, contracted out airport workers often assume those critical responsibilities with little to no training from their employers and the airlines they serve.”

Cabin cleaners at SFO and other airports have also complained that they often have to take meals breaks in the same vans that contain trash from the airplanes they clean in between plane arrivals. Workers said they are expected to clean the airplanes quickly, with management timing them, and that the pressure can be so intense that cabin cleaners have suffered injuries, anxiety and stress-related illnesses. SFO and AirServe only recently provided a separate lunch break room for the cabin cleaners.

SEIU-USWW member Leigh Browder said she has worked at SFO for 22 years. “I feel that AirServ management takes the workers for granted,” she said. “I love my job, but the corporate game is hurting us.”

Davíd Cota, Northern California Airports Division Coordinator for SEIU-USWW, said the cabin cleaners have been working without a new contract for the past two years. He said the union is trying to reach an agreement, similar to a master contract, with four United Airlines contractors—AirServ, Prime Flight, Prospect, and G2.

The multi-city strikes were the latest in a series of actions by Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies who are raising their voices for a $15 an hour minimum wage and union rights, and to make our airports safe and secure for passengers and employees.
Several union members also planned to go on a three day fast starting November 23 at Los Angeles International Airport to bring attention to the low working standards and wage theft at LAX by the contractor, Scientific Concepts which employs cabin cleaners. The company was cited for wage theft and violations of the LAX living wage ordinance.

SEIU represents contracted security officers, ramp workers, baggage handlers, skycaps, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners, and passenger services agents at many airports around the US.

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Bay Area members of Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) said they wanted to call attention to poor working conditions, including at United Airlines contractor AirServ Corporation.

- Paul Burton



 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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