July 8, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Newark, NJ—It was back in January when Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, ordered airlines to raise workers immediately. Six months later some of the airlines have complied, but United Airlines hasn’t, and may even oppose the mandate.
Newark’s clergy gathered in Clinton Hill on Monday to announce they will be collecting signatures from their parishioners and presenting the petitions to United Airlines by September.
Many of Newark’s faith leaders were in attendance, the latest in a series of press conferences and actions by Newark airport workers trying to pressure the airlines to heed the Port Authority’s directive.
On June 18, many of Newark Airport’s 4,000 workers delivered a petition on the third floor of Terminal C calling on United to implement the wage and benefit standards.
But three weeks later, United is still balking.
Darryl Scipio, an organizer with 32BJ SEIU, the property services union that is organizing airport workers in Newark and New York, said that United refuses to bend.
“We wanted to let the community know that United Airlines refuses to do anything to improve the job conditions of these workers,” said Scipio.
As in New York and Los Angeles, the major airlines subcontract work such as cabin cleaning, security and ticket agents to different vendors. The subcontractors will only raise standards unless directed by United.
But according to Scipio, United seems to be now opposing the Port Authority directive.
“Their response has been that they don’t have to follow the directive, and they have actually communicated they may challenge that [directive],” Scipio said.
Scipio said the union hopes United doesn’t do that, but if they do, the Port Authority might have to again weigh in.
“We want to thank the Port Authority for pushing the betterment of workers forward. But if they can put more pressure on United, that would be helpful,” said Scipio.