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JFK Security Officers Approve Strike Days Before Christmas

About 200 private security officers who screen passengers, handle bags and clean airplane cabins at John F. Kennedy International Airport voted to authorize a Dec. 20 strike, potentially snarling holiday travel plans for thousands.

The workers, represented by Service Employees International Union and employed by Air Serv Corp., said the contractor has failed to respond to security concerns and are trying to silence them, according to a news release issued by SEIU Local 32BJ. The officers have complained about shoddy equipment, rushed searches and lack of training, which they said endangers air travelers.

“We are not provided the basic tools we need to keep passengers at the airport safe,” Prince Jackson, a security officer employed by Air Serv, said in the release. “Our backs are against the wall because Air Serv tells us to shut up. Don’t talk about how bad things are.”

JFK, in the borough of Queens, is New York’s busiest airport, serving 47.7 million passengers last year. The security officers, who are paid about $8 an hour, are working with SEIU Local 32BJ to gain official recognition, said Tanya Tuzman, a union spokeswoman. The security officers have been filing complaints with the company for more than a year, she said.

Another group of 100 JFK workers employed by Garden City, New York-based Global Elite will vote to authorize a strike tomorrow, the news release said.

Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs JFK, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

“These issues have only just come to our attention this week,” Atlanta-based Air Serv said in an e-mailed statement. “We are now in the process of reviewing them. As our policies make clear, we value employees’ input on matters of concern to them. Accordingly, we will be speaking with employees on these matters in the days and weeks to come.”

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