The decision to strike, whether you are a fast food worker, home care worker, janitor or airport worker, is never one you take lightly. But as Pedro Gamboa, who loads bags for Aviation Safeguards at JFK Terminal 7, prepared to strike his company’s threats and intimidation, one word rang clear: “dignity”.
“It’s a situation where we have been doing this work for a long time. For me, this is my fifth year. Some people have been doing this job for 15 or 20 years. I have seen some unfair treatment and a lack of dignity and respect for hard working people like us.”
Pedro is part of a growing movement of people standing up for better jobs and dignity for their families – and just like the fast food workers and others who have gone on strike for good jobs and union rights – they have faced threats – but they are standing firm.
Over the last two years, Aviation Safeguards baggage handlers have filed various lawsuits and complaints about unfair labor practices, health and safety violations and wage theft. They have been fighting along with 12,000 other subcontracted airport workers in New York and New Jersey for higher wages, benefits and the right to union representation.
After this group of baggage handlers began to be more active in calling for the changes they need on the job, they received a threatening letter from the Aviation Safeguards’ Human Resources Department. The letter said that employees who engage in strikes “are not protected. This means participating employees may be disciplined or even fired.” The Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board has found probable cause that the contractor made an illegal disciplinary threat.
The airport workers’ cause, like their fast food and home care counterparts, is igniting a movement and community and elected leaders are standing with them. On this morning’s picket lines walked City Council Member I. Daneek Miller, whose message was clear:
“You are well within your rights and you are on the right side of history. This is the richest city in the world… This is not how we live in the greatest city in the greatest country in the world. We will be here until this fight is complete. Myself, the members of the labor Committee in city council and the entire city council stand with you. My integrity and my humanity says I stand with workers not with companies that violate workers rights.”
And exercising those rights and experiencing justice are at the heart of this for Gamboa. “Personally I have worked places in the past where my work was respected and dignified for what I do. At this level, people don’t respect you very much. Our work is hard work and I think it should be treated with great respect and dignity for the needs of our families and ourselves,” he says.
One thing is clear – Pedro and his co-workers won’t quit until they win respect at work for themselves and their families. You can show your support for them here.