For immediate release
May 13, 2020
At least 42 workers who worked at the United Catering facility serving the Newark Airport before the pandemic caused United to reduce its operations have tested positive for COVID-19; at least four have died from the virus.
Newark – 60 workers gathered outside the United Airlines catering facility at Newark Liberty International Airport on Wednesday to honor workers who have died from COVID-19. Workers also called for a temporary closure of the facility for cleaning and sanitizing and for comprehensive protocols to protect workers from the virus.
To date, four United Catering workers have died from COVID-19 and at least 42 have tested positive. Workers do not know where they contracted the virus or if they were working at the time, but want that expanded cleaning and protective measures to ensure the safety of all who work in the facility.
“I took part in this action to honor my coworkers who passed away from the virus,” said Karenina Cortez, who has worked for United Catering for nearly four years. “We also came here to send a message to United Airlines that we want to work, but we want to do so with all reasonable safety measures implemented so we can feel confident coming into work.”
UNITE HERE Local 100 represents nearly 7,000 workers at Port Authority airports. Around 1,000 of those work in airline catering for United Airlines at EWR, preparing food and drink for departing flights and removing garbage and dirty carts from arriving flights. The majority of them are currently not working. In response to the Covid-19 outbreak in New York and New Jersey generally, the union is calling for immediate, temporary closure of the United catering facility to clean and disinfect all areas in addition to a comprehensive set of protocols to protect workers after the kitchen is reopened.
Governor Phil Murphy said, “The health and safety of New Jersey’s workers is of paramount importance, especially during these uncertain times. Employers must take steps to protect their employees from the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and I stand with workers across our state as they fight for adequate protective equipment, increased access to health care, and enhanced cleaning protocols. I have repeatedly said that public health creates economic health, and we must encourage employers to take that to heart and treat their employees with the consideration and dignity they deserve.”
In addition to these safety protocols, airport workers have called for employers to provide access to quality, affordable healthcare. Far too many airport workers in catering and concessions do not have health insurance at all. Legislators in New Jersey have introduced the Healthy Terminals Act (S989 / A2487), which would give these workers a path to affordable health insurance and which UNITE HERE urges legislators to immediately pass.