Thursday, January 05, 2017

Newark Liberty International Airport workers' suit says pay was docked for lunch breaks not taken

NEWARK -- Aircraft cabin cleaners at Newark Liberty International Airport have filed a class action lawsuit against the United Airlines contractor that employs them, asserting they've been docked pay for lunch breaks they never took and otherwise cheated out of wages.

The suit seeks class status for 340 employees of PrimeFlight Aviation Services, a Nashville-based company with more than 4,000 employees nationwide. PrimeFlight contracts with United to clean the carrier's jets and perform other ground-support work at Newark Liberty, where United accounts for three quarters of all flights.

The suit, filed Oct. 31 in state Superior Court in Newark, was announced this week by Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which has been waging a campaign to organize workers at Newark Liberty while pushing for higher wages.

It asserts that PrimeFlight falsely claimed that its low-wage workers had taken lunch breaks and then deducted the break time from their pay. The suit also charges that workers were denied overtime when they worked beyond the normal end of their shifts. The suit, filed by  seeks wages that workers say they are owed. 

"I work hard cleaning United Airlines planes for PrimeFlight," Nicolas Molina, a Newark cabin cleaner and one of three named plaintiffs in the suit, was quoted as saying in the union's announcement. "Despite working full-time, I make so little money I can barely feed my family. That's why it's especially distressing when I am not paid for all of the hours I have worked."

A PrimeFlight spokesman in Nashville, Jim Burnett, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Molina, a Newark resident and father of one who has worked at the airport for 11 years, makes $10.10 an hour, the minimum under a wage policy imposed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on its tenants and their contractors at Newark Liberty.

Prior to adoption of the wage policy in 2014, dozens of low-wage airport workers shepherded by 32BJ turned out month after month at the agency's board meetings to press for the policy, which was first support by commissioners appointed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and, later, by those of his Republican counterpart from New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie.


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