32BJ

TWO-FRONT APPROACH: Airport workers represented by Local 32BJ SEIU receive instructions from a union staffer on how to use personal protective equipment. The union is also pressing its case before Congress to have those employees' economic and health-care needs addressed as part of the Federal stimulus package being negotiated with the Trump Administration.

The president of the union representing 32,000 airport-service workers March 17 detailed steps he believes Congress should take to protect those employees as part of the trillion-dollar stimulus bill being crafted in Washington.

Many workers within that sector of the airline industry have no union representation and lack health-care and sick-leave coverage while being paid minimum wage.

'Offer Economic Security'

Kyle Bragg, whose Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union has 185,000 members in 11 states, primarily in building-service jobs, said during a teleconference for reporters, "The coronavirus is having a huge impact on our lives and the economy and airport workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis. Airports are often the biggest worksites in many of our cities, so we have to protect the economic health of the nation—and that has to include the health, safety, and economic security of the contracted airport workers who keep our airports running every day."

He continued that as part of the Federal bailout package to address the economic toll resulting from the pandemic,"There's no reason basic protections for contracted airport workers shouldn't be included and we are going to keep pushing for that."

"The canceling of flights has caused reductions in our work hours," said Vladimir Clairjeune, a passenger-service representative at JFK Airport for 10 years. "Many of us are in the dark about how we're going to pay our bills. With the ban of flights from Europe, we live with the very real fear that the airports may shut down, that we may not have a job coming out of this. How do we pay our bills, how do we take care of our families?"

"When the layoffs happen, I know it will send airport workers in a tailspin," said Ben McMillan, a wheelchair attendant at the Philadelphia International Airport. "How will we continue to provide for our loved ones? I spend hours at the airport pushing grandparents and disabled passengers, but who's going to take care of me in my time of need?"

'Life Turned Upside Down'

Takiah Garrett, a customer-service agent at Newark Liberty International Airport, said, "The pandemic has turned my life upside down. I have three kids to take care of and bills to pay, and now airport workers possibly face layoffs...Bailouts cannot leave behind contracted workers like me who make air travel possible."

The Trump Administration is looking to send cash payments to American households to partially offset the ongoing contraction of entire sectors of the economy that have occurred because of the pandemic.

On March 17, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the stimulus package being crafted by the administration and Congress was likely to cost around $1 trillion, making it larger than both the 2008 bank bailout under President George W. Bush and the Obama Administration's 2009 Recovery Act.

The Washington Post reported that in closed-door sessions with members of Congress, Mr. Mnuchin warned that failure to act could result in the unemployment rate, which in February had been just 3.5 percent, spiking to 20 percent.


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