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JFK restaurant workers protest losing their jobs

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As airport officials gathered to open the new Terminal 4 at JFK, several hundred union restaurant and food service workers protested outside, demanding that 67 workers get their jobs back.

Before the new $1.4 billion terminal opened, about 150 food service workers were employed by Host Marriott at the old International Arrivals Building.

More than 100 of those workers applied to keep their jobs with the new food-service provider, Restaurant Associates.

Thirty-eight of those workers were hired by Restaurant Associates, the company said. But 67 workers, many with more than 20 years of experience, lost their jobs, according to the HERE Local 100 union.

“After all the years I’ve given, they think they can just hang us out to dry,” said Dennis Haggerty, a bartender and member of HERE Local 100 who had worked at the terminal for 24 years.

Haggerty said the airport’s food service provider had changed before, but nobody had lost their jobs in the transitions.

“We are dealing with discrimination because we are union members,” Haggerty said. “Restaurant Associates interviewed us and told us we had jobs, but then after 24 years’ experience, I got something in the mail saying I was not qualified.”

Restaurant Associates issued a written response to the protest saying “Restaurant Associates created a fair and non-discriminatory hiring process for Terminal 4. We are neither a union nor non-union company.”

State Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), the president of the New York City Central Labor Council, attended the protest along with workers from many city unions.

“The Port Authority and the state of New York should stand with New York labor and demand that these workers have a voice at work instead of being forced out of their work,” McLaughlin said. “This hub of international travel should be serviced by workers who make a living wage and are supported by the protections of collective bargaining.”

Restaurant Associates said it met with all 150 Host Marriott employees and offered the best-qualified employees jobs.

“This process reflects our commitment to hiring the best-qualified candidates so that RA can provide outstanding quality food service to its clients,” the company said.

The food-service company was hired by the Dutch company that manages the new terminal, Schiphol Group. The terminal handles international arrivals from more than three dozen airlines.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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