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JFK Airport Workers Plan Strike for Memorial Day Weekend, Threaten Travel Chaos

Unionized ground workers at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport are planning to go on strike this Friday, throwing travel plans for millions of Americans into chaos at the start of the busy Memorial Day Weekend. 

 

Memorial Day is the federal holiday for honoring and mourning all U.S. military personnel who died serving in the Armed Forces. 


Memorial Weekend is one of New York's busiest periods of holiday travel in the year.

Teamsters Local 553, the union which represents 300 workers and mechanics who fuel commercial and cargo jets at JFK airport, has said that it is at loggerheads with the Allied Aviation Services, the private corporation charged with servicing aircraft.  


The union last coordinated a strike with ground workers at JFK airport in 2005, during a dispute over compensation and healthcare.  


Now the union claims that, after having continuous contracts for decades, ground workers have been operating without a collective bargaining agreement since June 30, 2023. 


“We have been without a contract for almost a year, and Allied Aviation has not been negotiating in good faith since they are conditioning any new contract on our forfeiting our right to strike and fight for our members in the future. That is simply a non-starter for us,” said Demos Demopoulos, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 553. 


“We will never give up the right to strike and fight for our members, a right granted to us by the National Labor Relations Act,” he continued. 


Allied Aviation is the only fuel service provider at JFK, meaning it is the only company that airlines can use to receive, store, test and deliver jet fuel at that airport. In other words, there will potentially be no refueling at JFK on the Friday of Memorial Weekend. 


The labor dispute between Teamsters Local 333 and Allied Aviation is a jurisdictional disagreement about which national labor agency oversees contract disputes — either the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or the National Mediation Board.  


Teamsters Local are insisting that they hold greater protections and the right to strike under the NLRB. At the same time, they are claiming that Allied Aviation is contesting this. 


“This has been a coordinated effort by Allied at airports across the country, to have unions give up on this jurisdiction issue,” claimed the Teamsters’ Demopoulos.  


General manager for Allied Services at JFK Airport Brian Xavier said he was “not aware” of the union’s planned strike. 


The Port Authority that oversees JFK expects a record amount of travel through the airport this Memorial Weekend.

“I can’t comment on this,” he further said. 


The Port Authority (PA) of New York and New Jersey oversees JFK airport. 


On Wednesday, the PA of New York and New Jersey put out a press release stating circa 6.4 million travelers are expected to use its airports and vehicular crossings from May 23 to May 28, marking a potential record for the Memorial Day travel period. Thousands of travelers may well be impacted. 


When asked about contingency plans in the event of a ground workers’ strike, PA spokesman Seth Stein said: “We will work closely with our airport partners to minimize any disruptions over this busy holiday travel weekend. We have no involvement in negotiations between our contractor and their unionized staff.” 


According to GlassDoor, Allied Aviation aircraft refuelers in NY earn on average 56k per annum. 


During the last strike, Allied used management personnel to refuel planes. 

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