Workers protest JFK security

Security workers and their supporters protest at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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As John F. Kennedy International Airport hummed last week with pre-Thanksgiving travelers, airport security workers and their supporters protested, calling attention to inadequate training that they contend jeopardize travelers.

Organizers with the SEIU/32BJ union said employees from AirServ and Global International — both are contractors for airlines — filed complaints more than two months ago with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, claiming their employers did not give them full support.

Laurel Boucher said that when he started working for AirServ in April, assigned to directing traffic outside one of the terminals and checking IDs for access to secured areas, he received no training from his superiors.

“I learned everything from my co-workers,” he said as he and several dozen protesters picketed outside Terminal 4 the day before Thanksgiving. “Security-wise, we need more training to protect people.”

Rob Murray, an organizer with the union, said Global employees are supposed to enter a plane after it has been cleaned and check for any possible security hazards left behind. It is a job he said that could take upwards of 30 minutes, but management places pressure on employees to get the job done in about five minutes.

Workers said conditions got somewhat better after word of their complaints drew media attention, but shortly thereafter the status quo returned.

“Just this week more security officers came forward with the same types of problems,” Murray said. SEIU/32BJ represents about 1,000 workers at the Port Authority’s three New York area airports and Murray said the union was helping the employees of AirServ and Global to organize.

Gladys Resto, who also works at AirServ, said the radios she and her co-workers are issued often do not work, and when they do dispatchers do not answer their calls.

She said when she complained about the condition of her equipment she was told “you’re lucky to have a radio.”

She also said the layout of the airport was never explained to her, a particularly egregious lapse considering it is her job to direct lost travelers.

“People are always asking directions,” she said. “I don’t think that’s the way it should be.”

With protesters marching in front of Terminal 4 and chanting, “What’s outrageous? Poverty wages,” Resto also took AirServ to task for her hourly pay.

“They pay an $8 an hour flat rate with no increase and no benefits,” she said. “At least not affordable benefits.”

“It’s not just about us,” she added. “Passengers are in jeopardy, and that’s something people need to be aware of.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) stopped by to offer their support.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 6:22 pm, November 29, 2012
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