Lawmakers throughout Queens and New York City have called out Eulen America, a Spanish-owned private contractor that provides workers to airports, for the maltreatment of its non-union baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants.
Last week, U.S. Reps. like Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Astoria), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Ozone Park), Nydia Velázquez (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Maspeth), Greg Meeks (Rockaway Beach, Far Rockaway) and more issued a joint statement for forcing employees to take sick days when they were healthy, not providing uniform allowance and ignoring workers’ rights.
“Working men and women are the backbone of our nation, and we will always stand with them for their rights and fair working conditions,” according to the joint Congressional statement. “For American Airlines, the staff of Eulen America who serve as baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, and wheelchair attendants, helps ensure a satisfying flying experience for passengers. It is in the public interest to ensure that Eulen workers are treated fairly and that they’re provided with the benefits to which they are entitled.”
Eulen America could not be reached for a response.
Lasonia Whervin, a South Ozone resident, is a wheelchair attendant and has experienced firsthand her rights being dismissed.
“Currently, they say we are not allowed to push two wheelchairs, but they still let that happen,” said Whervin. “I have to step in and tell the other workers they don’t have to do that.”
Whervin found out the hard way after she injured her foot, but was not allowed to use any sick days off in July for that or a vacation, because she was forced to use it in March or “lose them.”
“When we get into the baggage claims area we have to bring the carts and the wheelchair and they tell us that we can’t refuse that,” said Whervin. “It’s very tiring because sometimes you get a big passenger or two big passengers and you still have to push them. It affects you in the long wrong.”
Whervin had to wheel passengers along with luggage as heavy as 70 lbs.
Even with a foot injury, Whervin had to go back to work because she only works 28 hours weekly.
“I have to go back in,” said Whervin. “I have a 2-year-old.”
Workers accrue an hour for every 30 hours that they work in New York City, according to a spokesman for 32BJ SEIU, the union that many Eulen America workers want to collectively organize for and join. Since the workers at the firm don’t have vacation time, the five days they earn annually are their days off.
“In case of an emergency, when I need it – how am I going to get paid?” said Whervin. “They wouldn’t care!”
Despite working at Eulen for a year and three months, it wasn’t until she was a year into her career that Whervin discovered that she was supposed to get a uniform allowance of $14.75 biweekly. She has spent approximately over $1,000 out-of-pocket on going to the laundromat weekly before she learned of this benefit.
“At Eulen, it’s about favoritism, but with a union, it won’t be about favoritism, it would be about what’s right,” said Whervin.