Security guards at New York's JFK Airport are threatening to strike just before Christmas, demanding significant improvements to their working conditions.
About 300 workers will vote tomorrow to authorize the strike, which would begin December 20. They are also considering unionization, Crain's New York Business reports.
The workers, who are employed by two private companies, Air Serv and Global Elite Group, are responsible for inspecting planes for explosives and contraband before takeoff, and checking airport staff who have access to aircraft.
They are also in charge of directing terminal traffic, according the the New York Post.
The guards are currently paid $8 an hour without benefits, and complain of low quality equipment and a lack of sufficient training.
"We want to be issued enough of the proper equipment to be able to do our job and keep the public safe," Prince Jackson, an Air Serv employee, told Crain's. "We want more money and benefits."
Michael Allen, a spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, which is advising the guards, told The Post:
These security officers feel responsible for the safety and security at JFK Airport. They feel it is their duty to bring attention to these gaping holes in preparedness and safety standards.
We understand that a labor union is seeking over a period of time to organize workers from companies that work at JFK. We have no comment on that effort.
Global Elite Group also released a statement:
Global Elite Group will be looking into these recent union activities and to date we have not received any petition from employees.
Global Elite Group believes this is part of a larger ploy by the service workers' union to generate public and governmental support for its efforts to unionize our employees. We are not the only company being targeted by the union — a number of companies operating at airports across the nation are seeing similar actions.
Global Elite Group maintains an open door policy with employees. Regular meetings are held with employees to discuss issues pertaining to field operations. We provide all the resources needed by our employees to perform their jobs.
JFK was the sixth busiest airport in the country in 2011, serving more than 47 million passengers, according to Airports Council International.
Of course, the week before Christmas is peak travel season. Consumer Traveler reported that in 2010, December 19 to December 25 was the year's busiest for air travel.
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