JFK security officers deserve dignity and respect

JFK security officers deserve dignity and respect
State Sen. James Sanders.

Airport workers play important, vital roles in keeping the traveling public safe and secure at LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Given that they are employed by a hodgepodge of contractors, like Global Security Consulting Group, they endure things like employers not paying them uniform allowances as required under the law – violations of New York State’s wage and hour laws and other abuses. Under New York State law, employers must pay employees who launder their required uniforms up to $16.20 per week but Global’s workers say the contractor does not pay them uniform allowances as required under the law.

Global provides aircraft and terminal security for airlines like Caribbean, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Japan, Cayman, Virgin Atlantic and more.

Recently a group of JFK Global employees delivered a petition to the management signed by a strong majority of workers. Among other demands, the petition asked management to address wage and scheduling issues as well as to provide proper safety equipment and uniforms.

Some of us accompanied a delegation of workers carrying letters spelling out their complaints to JFK International Air Terminal (JFKIAT) and Caribbean Airlines. JFKIAT operates Terminal 4, where Global is the security contractor for most of the 34 international and domestic airlines. Caribbean Airlines is one of Global’s largest customers and a large contingent of the contractors employees are either Caribbean immigrants or of Caribbean descent. Many employees also travel on Caribbean Airlines on vacation or visits home.

“I have spent as much as three hours waiting between flights,” said worker Erum Hameed. “During this time I am not getting paid. Other companies at the airport have schedules without gaps. I don’t understand why Global can’t do it the same way.”

Erum and his co-workers say Global Security needs to give them fair work schedule so they could be paid fairly for the hours they spend at the airport after reporting for work. Workers complain the Garden City, NY-based security contractor is not paying legally required wage premiums for split-shifts and shifts greater than 10 hours. The contractor is scheduling work assignment by flight, which leaves workers waiting hours on end at airports off the clock, said workers.

Global Security, for instance, settled a lawsuit for $720,000 just last year. Recently, workers had to file the same lawsuit again because the violations continued despite the settlement.

Among practices that have come to my attention as well as some of my colleagues in the New York State legislature is that the security contractor is also not paying legally required wage premiums for split-shifts and shifts greater than 10 hours.

What more do these workers need to do in order to not to be mistreated and cheated out of their hard-earned wages?

More recently, Global Security employees recently filed complaints with the New York City Consumer Affairs Department alleging violations of the city’s sick day laws and with the City Human Rights Commission alleging, the contractor failed to provide accommodations for a pregnant employee.

Shakira Lewis said she filed her complaint in May 2018 after notifying Global that she was pregnant and, on instruction from her doctor, requested reasonable accommodation to be transferred to a post that is indoors where she would not be exposed to airplane fumes and could occasionally sit down. The contractor instead placed Lewis on unpaid leave because she was pregnant.

Those complaints are currently being investigated.

Ms. Lewis’s treatment by her employer is just unconscionable. Global’s treatment of workers regarding pay and scheduling is a scandal. We want JFKIAT and Caribbean Airlines as well as other airlines that has have contracts with Global to procure aircraft and terminal security — Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Japan, Cayman, Virgin Atlantic and more. Airlines could take responsibility and insist that this contractor be fair to its workers or they are going to find another contractor to do the job.

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