Fuelers at Sea-Tac vote to strike, airport could shut down without deal

SeaTac, Wash. — Workers who fuel planes at Sea-Tac Airport are threatening to strike.

Union leaders say the 150 workers, who fuel 95 percent of the planes at the airport, voted overwhelmingly Saturday to authorize a strike.

The aircraft fuelers formed a union last March and are negotiating their first contract with their employer, Swissport.

"This group is mostly immigrants, mostly making minimum wage, so these people are pretty used to getting smacked around by their employer. So it was really great to see them stepping up to fight for themselves to get a fair contract," said Jamie Fleming, of Teamsters Local 174.

Fleming said workers want better pay and don't feel Swissport is taking them seriously.

Swissport contracts with airlines to fuel planes.

"If there were to be a strike, it would pretty much halt air traffic out of Sea-Tac Airport," Fleming said.

Could that happen during the Thanksgiving holiday?

"We have dates scheduled to bargain in December, however, at this point, all options are on the table now that a strike is authorized," Fleming said.

The airlines are working on backup plans, and Swissport said in a statement, "We have business continuity plans in place to ensure a business-as-usual experience for our airline partners and travelers.”

The statement, from Todd Lindamood, Vice President, Human Resources Swissport USA, Inc. also said, "Swissport is committed to providing all employees a competitive compensation package and safe work environment. We remain optimistic that an agreement will be reached with our fueling associates at Sea-Tac Airport and will continue to negotiate in good faith.”

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