globe file photo
Contract workers for JetBlue Airways and other airlines at Logan Airport have voted to authorize a strike, which could pull 500 baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners, and skycaps off the job within the next week. The workers, who are employed by ReadyJet and Flight Services & Systems, known as FSS, say they have been targeted and threatened for union organizing as they continue their six-year effort to become part of 32BJ Service Employees International Union.
The strike would involve about a third of the subcontracted workforce at Logan, making it one of the largest actions at the airport in recent years, according to the union.
JetBlue, the largest carrier at Logan, is the biggest client of FSS and ReadyJet in Boston, and the subcontractors’ employees make up the vast majority of JetBlue’s third-party workforce here, the union said.
In the event of a strike, JetBlue noted that its 1,000 direct employees at Logan — including pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, and ramp workers — will still be on the job and that operations will be “normal.”
The airline said its subcontractors are preparing extra staffing and it expects the impact to be minimal.
“JetBlue is committed to ensuring an appropriate wage for airport workers,” the airline said in a statement. “We have long been on the record urging our business partners to be responsive to the needs of their employees.”
ReadyJet and FSS did not return requests for comment.
Both companies have been fined for numerous wage theft and safety violations at Logan over the years, and the National Labor Relations Board has charged the companies with interfering with workers’ right to organize. Workers plan to file a new complaint with the labor board over managers taking photos of workers attending union organizing meetings and threatening to retaliate against those who were there.
Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan Airport, said it has been meeting with labor and community groups about issues involving the airport’s airline service providers.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh was among several politicians who turned out to support the workers at the strike vote announcement Friday morning. Walsh noted that when people fly into Boston, airport workers are often the first people they see.
“You are the face of Boston,” he told the workers, some of them dressed in neon-yellow ReadyJet jackets. “If you want to organize and speak with one voice, that is your right as American workers.”
City Councilor Lydia Edwards also chided FSS and ReadyJet for their labor violations.
“You want to have a business here, you want to make money in Boston, pay your workers, it’s as simple as that,” she said. “If you’ve got nothing to worry about, then you shouldn’t be worried about an organized workforce.”
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