Teamster jet fuelers at Sea-Tac Airport authorize strike
Aircraft fuelers vote to authorize a strike | Teamsters Local 174

SEA-TAC AIRPORT, Wash. —Fed up with nearly 10 months of management stalling and fruitless talks over a first contract, the nearly 150 workers who fuel planes at Sea-Tac International Airport voted overwhelmingly on Nov. 16 to authorize a strike against their employer, Swissport, whom airport officials subcontracted to run fuel operations.

The workers, members of Teamsters Local 174, are resisting management proposals “that undercut local area standards,” The Stand, the electronic newspaper of the Washington State Labor Council reported.

One “local area standard,” though the union did not say so: Sea-Tac, which is a separately incorporated city, was the first in the nation to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. That minimum applies specifically to airport workers and will increase to $15.64 hourly on Jan. 1.

If a strike were to be called by the Teamsters, air travel out of Sea-Tac Airport would come to a halt, as aircraft would be unable to refuel, The Stand added. The airport is one of the nation’s major West Coast freight and passenger airports. It also serves major area firms, such as Amazon, which ship nationwide.

“Swissport management did not believe their employees were serious about getting a strong first contract,” Local 174 Director of Negotiations Patty Warren told the paper. “This nearly-unanimous strike vote should make it clear to Swissport their bullying tactics will not work. It is time to get serious about the negotiating process or it’s going to be an interesting holiday season.”

“A strike authorization vote can be daunting for a newly-organized group, but these workers rose to the challenge and spoke clearly with one voice: They will not tolerate Swissport’s intimidation,” added Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks, who is also president of Teamsters Joint Council 28.

“We are proud of our new members’ courage and resolve, and we hope this vote will send a powerful message to their employer that they need to reconsider their anti-worker positions if they want to reach a contract without a strike.”

The jet fuelers quickly picked up support from another key group of workers represented by Teamsters Local 1224: Regional air carrier pilots.

“Solidarity from our Teamster brothers and sisters in the Airline Professionals Association (Teamsters Local 1224) supporting our members at Swissport as they fight for a first contract. An injury to one is an injury to all!” that local tweeted.

“The brave Swissport aircraft fuelers represented by Teamsters Local 174 should know the thousands of U.S. pilots in the Teamsters Local 1224 family stand with them in their fight against corporate greed at Swissport,” Local 1224 President Daniel Wells added in a statement Local 174 posted on its website.

”Pilots working for Atlas Air, Southern Air, ABX Air, Horizon Air, and other carriers are all too familiar with corporate union-busting tactics and know firsthand what a difficult decision it is to go on strike.”

“Whether you’re an aircraft fueler, a mechanic, a dispatcher, a flight attendant, or a pilot, you’re critical to the success of your airline. The workers that keep these planes in the air are the backbone of the industry and must be treated as such. We applaud the aircraft fuelers’ courage and will stand beside them in the fight for their first contract,” Wells said.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.