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Nearly 100 cargo workers at DIA go on strike Monday, protesting unsafe work conditions

Swissport workers said the one-day strike is an escalation two petitions went unanswered

AuthorDENVER, CO - OCTOBER 10: Denver Post reporter Katie Langford. (Photo By Patrick Traylor/The Denver Post)

Nearly 100 Swissport cargo workers at the Denver International Airport are on strike Monday, protesting unsafe work conditions they say the company has been ignoring for more than a year.

The strike that began Sunday night was set to last through the day Monday, with some of the striking workers rallying outside DIA’s Main Terminal at 10:30 a.m.

Around three dozen of the striking workers showed up to Monday’s rally, walking around the plaza entrance by the Westin Hotel wearing SEIU sweatshirts and holding signs that read “Swissport Cargo Workers On Strike Over Unsafe Working Conditions.”

“It’s a big ask to get people to risk their job in this way, even though it’s legally protected,” said Andrew Guttman, who works as a cargo agent for Swissport. “People are nervous about it. Doing more than one day would’ve been a lot to bite off.”

Cargo workers were expected to be joined by other airport workers, community members and elected officials supporting their fight for safer working conditions, according to a Monday news release from the Service Employees International Union.

While the cargo workers are not part of the union, they reached out to it for help after their Swissport strike notice gained 80 to 90 workers’ signatures.

Swissport handles airfreight and airport ground services at DIA, and the strike only should affect Amazon packages coming in and out of the airport, not commercial flights, Guttman said.

According to Swissport’s website, the company has provided airport ground services and managed an air cargo warehouse at DIA since 2006.

The DIA media relations team confirmed airport operations are expected to remain normal during the strike in an emailed statement to the Denver Post on Monday.

“We want management to take our concerns seriously, so hopefully this is a way to get that to happen,” Guttman said. “If it’s not, we’ll keep working to get them to pay attention. We want to organize this because it matters to us.”

Guttman said the strike is an escalation of petitions that management hasn’t responded to — the first being circulated a year ago in December 2022 and the most recent being filed in August.

The petitions called out faulty and broken equipment, dangerous working temperatures at facilities, heaters not functioning during winter weather, and inadequate safety training.

“We’re trying to get their attention, and we knew we had to go bigger in some way,” Guttman said. “After the second petition was circulated in August, we gave them a deadline of the following month to respond. When that didn’t happen, we had never stopped talking to each other and this strike just felt like the next natural thing.”

Earlier this year, Swissport workers at DIA alleged a warehouse fire broke out after a loading truck struck a floor heating machine that was exposed without any protections in place, according to SEIU’s Monday release.

“I’ve just seen too many of my coworkers get hurt and be put in dangerous situations at work over the past year,” Guttman said. “We’ve delivered petitions, filed multiple OSHA complaints, and Swissport has refused to address the real safety concerns that are putting our lives at risk on the job.”

Denver workers aren’t alone in these issues.

Last December, Swissport workers at the Chicago O’Hare airport also went on strike to call out unfair labor practices. In June, Swissport workers at Boston Logan International Airport, Dulles International Airport, and LaGuardia followed.

In a statement, Swissport officials said the company is “unwavering” in its commitment to following operating permit requirements and labor regulations while “fostering a workplace that values the rights and well-being of our employees while maintaining operational compliance with industry standards.”

“Most of our employees fulfilled their scheduled hours and did not participate in the work stoppage,” Swissport officials said in a statement. “Swissport continues to proactively address any issues or concerns raised by our team, reinforcing our enduring commitment to cultivating a positive and supportive work environment.”

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