Airport Workers to JetBlue: Pay Us or Get Rid of Contractor

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Earlier this year, JetBlue replaced the contractor that cleans its cabins at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

One of the workers who was displaced was evicted from her apartment, while another couldn't afford rent. Six others are still waiting for more than $10,000 in lost wages.

According to a spokesperson for the Union that protects these workers, all of the above could have been prevented if ReadyJet -- the Boston-based company that JetBlue replaced Superior Aircraft Services with -- followed a new Workers' Retention Policy passed by Broward County Commissioners in January.

The policy calls for a 45-day period of "continued employment when one airline contractor is replaced with another."

Seven of the eight employees affected have since been rehired but are still seeking weeks of missed pay; one, Sonia Welsh is finishing her 14th week of unemployment.

Julie Karant, a regional communications officer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), says that Broward County should now enforce its own law.

Meanwhile, Helene O'Brien, a district director of SEIU, isn't stopping at ReadyJet if they won't pay. She says they're now asking JetBlue directly to "be responsible for the contractors that they're bringing in."

"We're not daring. This is not a game. We want ReadyJet to follow the rules," O'Brien says. "These are substandard company practices and somebody should teach them a lesson...these are third-world conditions being imposed by the airline industry."

An invoice for the lost wages was hand-delivered by a crowd of union members on Thursday Oct. 30. It follows months of complaints filed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); the first one was on July 16. In a follow-up complaint on Aug. 26, the SEIU asked the County Aviation Director to pay the workers what ReadyJet owes them, and asked that Welsh be allowed to work.

Asked for comment last week, JetBlue Manager of Corporate Communications Morgan Johnston said he was still tracking down exactly whom the invoice was delivered to in Fort Lauderdale.

NewTimes is also waiting to hear back from Broward County Aviation Department public information officer Greg Meyer.

O'Brien isn't waiting, saying that she's spoken to five members of the Broward County Commission about pulling ReadyJet's permit.

"The airport is supposed to be an economic engine," O'Brien says. "The fact that an economic generator is allowing companies that are not from Broward, not from Florida, to come in and break the law is a problem."

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