|Photo by Freeimages.com/Leonor Rivas|
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is leading a strike of airport workers at Sea-Tac (Seattle), O'Hare, Logan (Boston), John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark, Philadelphia, Reagan National, and Fort Lauderdale in a move aimed at calling for more investment in security training and emergency preparedness following the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels. The strike follows a rally held Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport.
In a statement announcing the strike the SEIU argued that investment in emergency response training, as well as higher wages, would lower turnover among airport workers and improve safety and quality of service.
Both the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and a 2011 LAX Blue Ribbon panel on airport security have advocated a "Whole Community" approach to disaster preparedness, an approach which advocates for engaging and empowering all parts of a community, the SEIU said, arguing that equipping the thousands of airport workers who are in direct contact with passengers every day to respond in cases of extreme weather, live-shooters, or terrorist attacks is smart policy.
The SEIU is calling for two specific measures. One measure is proactive airport policies to establish minimum labor standards to reduce turnover. The other is to improve training by including passenger service workers as participants in airport emergency drills alongside airport personnel, police and other emergency responders. Service workers should be trained on how to respond to protect both themselves and passengers during active shooter incidents and specialized training should be provided both for workers who provide security services (guarding doors, monitoring security cameras and other security functions) as well as for wheelchair agents who are tasked with helping to evacuate elderly and disabled passengers, the SEIU said.