Striking airport workers rally outside the State House

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 17, 2015….Workers who move baggage, help passengers and clean planes at Logan Airport went on a 24-hour strike Wednesday, alleging that airport contractors don’t pay enough and trample on their rights.

Over 100 workers at G2 Secure Staff and Ready Jet went on strike, according to Roxana Rivera, an organizer with SEIU 32BJ, which has been stymied in attempting to organize the companies where she said a couple hundred people work.

“The track record for these companies is not a good one,” said Rivera, when asked if she expected employees to be fired for participating in the strike. Rivera claimed that the strike is “federally protected” because it was held to protest “unfair labor practices.”

Jonathan Cornier, a 23-year-old who lives in subsidized housing in Jamaica Plain, said tendons in both of his arms “snapped” when he was pushing an overweight passenger. Cornier told the News Service he was out of work for two months without any kind of pay or benefit from his employer, G2 Secure Staff.

People who answered the phones at both G2 and ReadyJet said the companies had no comment.

Cornier, who joined a labor rally on the State House steps Wednesday afternoon, said he was unsure whether he would be fired for his participation.

“I 100 percent think that might happen. They can fire me for almost anything they want right now because I’m under my final warning,” said Cornier. Asked what he would do if that happens, Cornier said, “I have to search for another. And even if I leave this company and go to another company the problem’s still the same. Everything is underpaid. Whether I go to McDonald’s or to Burger King or whether I go back to school, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills.”

Cornier makes $10 per hour, which he said is a minimum wage set by the Massachusetts Port Authority, and is more than the $9 per hour minimum wage in the state.

“Massport believes all workers should make a fair wage and experience acceptable working conditions. Last fall, the Board approved a measure to accelerate the minimum wage payments for some private service companies at the airport by $1 a full year ahead of state law,” the Massachusetts Port Authority said in a statement. It said, “Massport has also been meeting regularly with the SEIU since late 2011 on labor issues involving private service companies that do business with airlines operating at Boston Logan International Airport. The meetings have produced significant results including letters to private service companies working at the airport regarding allegations raised on worker discrimination, federal and state wage and safety law compliance, and retaliation related to worker attendance at Massport Board meetings, self-organization and union bargaining rights.”

Rivera said the National Labor Relations Board, the state attorney general’s office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have investigated the companies for wage violations and for allegedly “intimidating workers” by firing them.

The union has been working to organize the airport workers for three years and has been blocked by the companies, said Rivera, who said the companies have broken the law.

The rally on Wednesday drew Democratic Reps. Marcos Devers, of Lawrence; Mary Keefe, of Worcester; Christine Barber, of Somerville; Steven Ultrino, of Malden; and Dan Ryan, of Charlestown.

Ryan found parallels between the workers and the colonists who rebelled against the British empire about 240 years ago.

“Here we are 240 years later, fighting the same battles,” said Ryan. He said, “The Boston Massacre were dockworkers who were fed up that the British government shut down the Port of Boston. They weren’t talking about freedom and taxes. They wanted to go to work.”

The House adopted a budget provision sponsored by Ryan that would establish a special commission to look at subcontracted passenger services at Logan including the “impact of these low wage jobs on children, families and communities.”

“It’s a shame that Massport’s not intervening,” said Rich Rogers, executive secretary-treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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