Updated Wednesday, July 12, 2017, 5:42 p.m. EDT: The airport-worker strike that began with a mass walk-off at three New York-area airports Tuesday night has been suspended while contract talks continue.
Rob Hill, vice president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union, who is representing the workers, told NBC News, “With strikes looming at Newark, LaGuardia, JFK and Philadelphia International airports, American Airlines and 32BJ SEIU have entered into last-minute discussions.”
Hill added that should negotiations go sour, workers are prepared to strike again if necessary.
“While the strike is suspended as negotiations get underway, the airport workers are ready to go back on strike should talks fall apart,” Hill said.
The workers are in a contract dispute with their employer, PrimeFlight Inc., a subcontractor for several major airlines. The workers allege unfair labor practices.
Strike actions were planned at JFK and LaGuardia, but those have been put off because of the strike suspension.
Transportation problems in New York City and surrounding areas just got a bit more complicated. On the heels of commuter rail and subway woes and the official beginning of the “summer of hell,” hundreds of workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports walked off their jobs in a labor dispute at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The 700 employees work for PrimeFlight Inc., a company that subcontracts ground and terminal services at all three New York travel hubs to major airlines including United Airlines, Jet Blue and American Airlines, according to the New York Daily News. The workers allege that PrimeFlight has unfair labor practices. They voted to strike earlier this week.
Employees at Newark Liberty International Airport started the strike at 9 p.m. with a picket and rally outside Terminal C.
The 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which represents the 700 striking PrimeFlight workers, told the Daily News that there will be rolling job actions over the next three days around all three airports, with an action at LaGuardia at 6 a.m Wednesday and another at JFK at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The union told the Daily News that PrimeFlight workers voted to strike after months of unsuccessful attempts to collectively bargain a union contract.
The union had been able to successfully negotiate better wages, working conditions and benefits for more than 8,000 New York-region airport workers over the past several years, but PrimeFlight refused to recognize 32BJ as the union’s bargaining representative.
The airport strike adds salt to the fresh wound of New York’s “summer of hell,” the name New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given to the massive summer repair project at New York City’s Penn Station, which got underway Monday.
According to NPR, Penn Station is the nation’s busiest train station, and an accelerated repair timetable set by its operator, Amtrak, will result in a 20 percent reduction in the number of trains traveling between New Jersey and Long Island, which means tens of thousands of commuters will have to find different ways to get to Manhattan.
New Yorkers have already been complaining about poor subway service in the city.
The “airport-worker strike, major commuter-rail repair project, already shitty subway service” combination in the middle of summer?
Sounds like a recipe for travel disaster.
The summer of hell indeed.