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Airport Wage Theft Battle Goes National with Worker Hotline

Primeflight employs more than 4,500 airport workers around the country. (BonnieHenderson/Pixabay)
Primeflight employs more than 4,500 airport workers around the country. (BonnieHenderson/Pixabay)
April 4, 2017

NEW YORK – Airport workers have launched a national hotline to help build a case against a contractor they say has a long history of violating labor laws. Primeflight employs baggage handlers, airplane cleaners and other workers at airports in nine states.

Last fall, workers in New Jersey filed suit against the company for wage theft, and workers in New York filed more complaints just last week.

According to Rob Hill, a vice president and director of organizing at local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, since 2005, the company has been forced to pay more than $3.3 million in penalties and settlements.

"People aren't paid for their lunch breaks or they're not getting their full hours, or they're not paid overtime when they have done overtime work," he said. "Or if they're tipped workers, they're being forced to sign that they got tips that they didn't get."

Last year, Primeflight agreed to pay $1.8 million in back pay to 152 airport workers in Seattle. SEIU is asking airport workers across the country who have experienced wage theft to call 1-844-OUR-WAGE.

Hill believes the hotline should make it easier for workers who may feel intimidated by the idea of filing a complaint against their employer on their own.

"We're looking for workers anywhere who work for Primeflight if they've been victims of wage theft to call in a report it," he added. "This company seems to have a track record. We want to find out everywhere that they're ripping workers off."

Hill also adds that when a company such as Primeflight has a known record of labor-law violations, the airlines bear some of the responsibility.

"When an airline is willing to hire a company, forcing them to compete with other companies to do the work the cheapest, and then doesn't police that they're acting responsibly, I'd say that that blame falls really on the airline for hiring a company like this," he explained.

At New York airports, Primeflight provides services for JetBlue and United Airlines.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY