July 21, 2015 / 5:34 PM / in 4 years

Some LaGuardia, JFK airport workers to strike starting Wednesday

(Reuters) - Some security workers and baggage handlers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports plan to strike starting on Wednesday night, their union said on Tuesday, potentially affecting travelers and airline operations.

Workers employed by Command Security Corp’s subsidiary Aviation Safeguards, who also include wheelchair attendants, have voted to strike starting at 10 p.m. Wednesday, the service workers union 32BJ SEIU said in a statement. They say the security services provider has threatened to fire them for organizing for higher wages and benefits.

Command Security’s Chief Executive Officer Craig Coy told Reuters the allegations were false and denied the company is anti-union.

“We have plans in place with our customers and the Port Authority, and we don’t anticipate any significant airport operations disruptions,” he said in a phone interview, referring to the agency that operates the two airports.

Coy said only 250 workers are expected to strike, although a union official said she expects some 1,200 to participate.

The union official said she does not know how long the strike will last, and does not expect regulators to intervene to halt it.

Delta Air Lines Inc, which contracts Aviation Safeguards, according to the union, said it would be “taking measures to ensure that our more than 35,000 customers booked through LaGuardia on Thursday are not affected.” United Continental Holdings Inc said it has contingency plans in place.

Delta could see a slight effect on revenue from the walkout if business travelers rebook to airlines less reliant on Aviation Safeguards, according to aviation industry consultant Robert Mann.

“It would be along the lines of a localized weather event,” he said.

Still, Mann said the demands of lower wage workers could loom as a growing issue for the industry.

“Living wage is a huge issue at the level of the thousands of employees that do this sort of work,” he said.

The union said in its statement that airport workers were struggling to survive even as “the airlines have been making record profits and the Port Authority has approved billions of dollars to modernize LaGuardia airport.”

The Port Authority said in a statement that it “has taken significant steps in recent years to encourage wage and benefit increases for employees of airline contractors at its airports.”

The interstate agency added that it will try to avoid disruptions stemming from the strike.

Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Christian Plumb

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