WINNING?: SEIU wants to organize workers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI —The push to unionize workers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has county officials worrying the conflict will disrupt operations.
So last month, Broward County commissioners took matters into their own hands, voting to have contracts at the airport redrafted to forbid disruption in services caused by labor unrest, says the Sun-Sentinel.
The proposal will allow the county to yank a subcontractor’s contract if they can’t keep their employees on the job.
Commissioners say they got involved because they want to avoid airport shut downs and delays. Going forward, county officials say they hope the new contracts will motivate airport employers to treat their hired help fairly, keeping things running smoothly.
“The Broward County Board of Commissioners has a proprietary interest in ensuring the safe, secure, seamless and efficient operations at the Airport. High levels of worker turnover, inconsistent and insufficient training, and employee unrest all threaten to undermine the furtherance of this interest. Given the critical infrastructure of the Airport, and the impact of service workers on security, public health, and passenger satisfaction with the Airport, the Board has an interest in establishing that airline service providers ensure uninterrupted services at the Airport. The adoption of this Resolution will prevent disruptions at the Airport due to labor unrest.”
James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation, said actions like these end up favoring the worker at the expense of the employer. In the long run, he said, nobody wins.
“That agreement says that the union won’t do anything to disrupt operations,” he said.
But in return, Sherk said, the union wants employers to drop secret ballot elections and hand over worker’s names and addresses so union officials can contact them directly and pressure them to join their ranks.
“The high priority for unions is to get rid of the secret ballot elections because it makes it easier for them to get new members,” Sherk said. “The reality is, when unions don’t have secret ballot elections they usually organize the workers whether they want it or not.”
And that, he said, leads to higher operating cost for the airport and its customers
Tensions between the union and employers have been building during the past two years. Better working conditions and higher salaries have been the focal point of the dispute. Low-level service workers say they are fed up with poverty-rate wages.
But employers argue that workers are paid fairly.
Eulen America, one of the baggage-handling companies hired by the county, is one of several subcontractors that the labor union is singling out. In an interview with Florida Watchdog in February, Amanda Kavulich, marketing coordinator for the company, said when the hourly wages are combined with tip,s workers with Eulen earn between $8 and $13 an hour.
Low wages aren’t the only issue. Last year, workers at Fort Lauderdale International Airport filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board gainst Eulen and two other airport baggage handling contractors.
Workers claimed Eulen America, Baggage Airline Guest Services and G2 Secure Staff LLC had ordered them to remove all traces of their union’s emblems from their uniforms.
Julie Karant, regional communications manager with Service Employees International Union, said a decision on the matter is expected soon.
Baggage Airline Guest Services was later dropped from the complaint after they rehired employees they had been previously fired or suspended for taking part in union activities and protests.
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org or on Twitter @mtoledoreporter.