Rountree Slaps Three of Seven Deadly Sins on Airline CEOs

NEWARK – It’s not too often anymore that you hear any of the Seven Deadly Sins invoked in the public square. Too many of them are associated with the core virtues of the country, and form the catch basin of habits probably most associated with “public service.”

But Louise Rountree, a Newark reverend and community activist, who’s running for an at-large city council seat on Team Baraka, was prepared to go there on Wednesday, targeting airline CEOs as purveyors of at least three of the seven deadly whoppers.

“Greed, gluttony – and sloth,” intoned Rountree, in her invocation at Newark Liberty International Airport with workers affiliated with 32BJ SEIU, words summoned in a spirit wholly pejorative.  The remark drew sustained applause from purple-garbed workers, as the councilwoman hopeful treaded on ground seldom crossed in the secular square, in which those qualities are almost a prerequisite for someone seeking public office.

Count Rountree out, she said.

As part of the Terminal C action, where Rountree joined 32BJ SEIU diehard Kevin Brown, Newark Council President Luis Quintana, and Central Ward Councilwoman Lamonica McIver, workers demanded American Airlines, United, Delta and Jet Blue sign the Good Jobs, Good Airports pledge to take real steps to address poverty level pay and the lack of worker protections.

Rountree

 

The union local and their allies called on airline CEOs to sign the pledge, take responsibility for this workforce, and invest in good jobs and good airports.

According to 32BJ, “workers at JFK, La Guardia and Newark International Airport ratified their Master Contract Agreement, which provided the contracted airport workers, members of 32BJ SEIU, with guidelines on the implementation of the Healthy Terminals Act, which provided health care to frontline airport workers, in addition to improved health and safety guidelines and increased protections against discrimination on the job. Even though workers at these airports are protected under this agreement until 2024, they stand in support of their fellow workers amid a national uprising that has seen essential workers across industries fed up and demanding change.”

By signing the Good Airports Pledge, the airlines would commit to: acknowledge that airlines have the ability and responsibility to end poverty-wage jobs and inequality through the system; ensure the billions of public dollars airlines receive annually serves the public good, not just shareholders and executives; set a minimum wage and benefit standard guaranteeing all workers are paid living wages and provided affordable, quality healthcare and paid time off; respect workers’ right to join together in a union; and ensure contracts with airport service providers meet the airline’s wage and benefits standards and encourage contractors to be neutral when workers organize a union.

“We have fought hard and prevailed. The established provisions in New York and New Jersey focus on

Labor Leader Brown.

leveling the inequalities highlighted by the pandemic” explained Dayshon Beeks, lift truck driver at Newark International Airport and a member of the bargaining committee. “We will no longer have to worry about choosing whether to seek medical care or feed our families. We can now face the future and continue to strengthen our families, our communities, and ourselves. All airport workers should have the same protections”

For decades, as airlines have consolidated into larger corporations, they have squeezed workers by contracting out essential jobs to a broad array of smaller companies in an attempt to dodge accountability for the workers who keep their systems running. At the same time, they’ve accepted billions in public dollars and operate out of airports that receive public funds — all while decreasing quality of service for travelers across the country.

“Even though we have been victorious in New York and New Jersey, there is still a lot to be done,” said Kyle Bragg, 32BJ SEIU President. “Airport workers play a key role in our post-pandemic recovery. After two years defined by calls for racial justice and the safety of our essential workers, it is time to create a nationwide standards. By signing the pledge, American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta and Jet Blue have the power of change the lives on thousands of workers nationwide and propel our airports to a recovery that puts working people first.”

With 175,000 members in 11 states, including 16,000 across airports up and down the East Coast, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

 

Editor’s Note: All Photos by Carina Pizarro.

Rountree, Maria Lanao of 32BJ, and Central Ward Councilwoman Lamonica McIver.
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