Selina Ruckdeschel had worked as a food server at La Guardia airport for over 20 years till today, once her career came to an abrupt halt that left her afraid and empty-handed. Selina was ordered to give back her airport access badge and told she would receive no severance pay and would shortly run out of health care insurance.
With air travel in free fall, because the coronavirus pandemic worsens across the United States, thousands of staff like Selina Ruckdeschel are set off from their jobs at the key airports that serve New York.
More than 1,200 of these dismissed laid-off staff were worked in restaurants and shops operated by OTG at La Guardia, Kennedy International and staff Liberty International airports, in step with the workers union that represents them, Unite Here Local 100.
OTG said the closings and layoffs were necessary because of the travel restrictions that had virtually grounded airlines. One of its senior executives is Lawrence Schwartz, a close ally of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
“You can’t pay people” once the corporate is taking in little revenue, said Mr. Schwartz.
“All airports are dead,” he added. “No one’s flying.”
OTG, one of the most important operators of airport concessions in New York city, aware its staff that they’d receive no severance which their insurance would lapse on March 31. Many restaurants and shops staff said they resented the way OTG handled the layoffs.
Katie Krausz, a bartender in Terminal A at metropolis Liberty, said she was called into a meeting in an OTG restaurant there on Monday and told, beside a few dozen alternative workers, that they were being laid off now. She said, they were escorted out and told to surrender their ID and badges.
On Wednesday, she received an official mail from OTG that said, “You should think about your layoff to be permanent as the situation is unexampled and therefore the effects are unknown.”
The notice went on to mention that “OTG isn’t providing severance packages, however, due to the impact the COVID-19 has on the state, several local governments are providing extra help to impaired staff.”
Katie Krausz, who had worked for OTG within the airport for more than 6 years, said she understood the predicament the company was in, however, she took issue with the message and the method way delivered: a curt dismissal that offered no compensation or benefits to assist workers left out of work in an economy that’s cratering.
“This isn’t our initial rodeo with OTG,” Katie added. “How they treat their workers isn’t right.”
Herb Valentine, 33, agreed that the way that OTG treated its staff was “very not truthful.”
Herb Valentine, who for the last eight years had served customers at OTG’s Prime tavern in Terminal C, said she was particularly worried concerning the company’s newer staff who were forgoing with no paid time off or accumulated sick days to use. “You run out of your sick pay, you don’t get anything,” she said. “You walk out of there with nothing.”
Waves of staff at airports across the country are losing their jobs as travelers evaporate, however, some firms are providing their workers a financial lifeline, as well as extending their health care coverage. Many restaurants and outlets in once-bustling airport terminals have closed with business essentially has come back to a standstill.
Arthur Phillips, a spokesman for Unite Here native 100, said the union estimated that a minimum of 2,400 of its members had been laid off from jobs in concessions or catering at the three airports that serve new york town.
He said concerning 1,280 of them had worked for OTG — about 700 at Newark Liberty and the balance at La Guardia and in two terminals at Kennedy. Additionally to the OTG staff, about 650 alternative members of the union are laid off at the airports, he said. Other airport concessionaires, Mr. Phillips said, have been additional generous to laid-off staff and workers.
Hudson group, that operates Hudson News stores in several airports, was extending insurance for two months, he said. LSG Sky Chefs, the biggest airline-catering company in the country, agreed to extend insurance benefits for three months, he added.
Mr. Schwartz said that OTG was “in financial-survival mode” and he and other executives were taking pay cuts of 50 % and would have to forgo bonuses. Mr. Schwartz, OTG’s chief business strategy officer, is additionally a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, a position he was appointed to by Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Schwartz said OTG had been “very compassionate” was “trying to be very reasonable.”
Other unionized staff at the airports also were set off in large numbers this week, as well as porters and plane cleanup crews. Notices from some of their employers showed that they, too, were offering no pay or extended health benefits.
Image credits: thestaffcanteen