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Airport workers stage strike at Dulles

Esthar Nchom, a wheelchair escort at the airport, joins other strikers. Times-Mirror/Chantalle Edmunds
Contract workers at Dulles Airport are taking part in a 24-hour strike as part of a dispute with their employer, the Huntleigh Corporation.

The workers are from 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU spokesperson Julie Karant said "the union is charging that the company surveilled, interrogated, arbitrarily disciplined a worker and fired a worker for lawfully protected activities."

Esthar Nchom, a wheelchair escort at the airport, joined a small group of strikers picketing outside Dulles Thursday.

"The way they treat us, we need respect. Huntleigh will get a message about how they are treating their workers. In the future, if they do what is right, they will not see any more strikes," Nchom said.

The action comes just a week after the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority passed a first-of-its kind policy ensuring contractors pay contracted wheelchair agents, checkpoint agents, terminal cleaners, cabin cleaners, sky caps and baggage handlers $12.75 per hour by 2020. Some contracted workers previously earned the minimum wage of $7.25.

“The Airport Authority’s new living wage will help workers support their families, but only a union can protect these men and women from losing their jobs through no fault of their own,” said 32BJ Vice President Jaime Contreras in a prepared statement. “They are striking to try and put an end to law-breaking coercion from employers like Huntleigh."

At Dulles, Huntleigh services over 20 airlines. This is the second time workers at the airport have gone on strike against the corporation, which is based in Irving, Texas.

Contracted service workers at Reagan National Airport also walked off the job Thursday. Around 300 contract workers at both Dulles and Reagan are employed by the Huntleigh Corporation.

Dulles Airport spokesperson Andrew Trull said the airport didn't "anticipate any impact to our operations or passenger flow."

Officials from Huntleigh could not be reached for comment.

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