NEW YORK - About 200 airline cabin cleaners walked off the job at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Thursday to protest what they say is insufficient protection from exposure to Ebola for workers whose jobs include cleaning up vomit and bathrooms.
Picket lines were set up overnight by non-unionized Air Serv cleaners outside Terminal D at LaGuardia for a one-day strike prompted by fears about the deadly virus, forcing airline crews to clean the planes themselves. Some signs read "Air Serv exposes us to vomit, blood and feces without protection" and "Air Serv puts worker safety at risk."
The workers, who are trying to join Service Employees International Union, the largest service workers union in the United States, briefly left the strike line to attend an infectious disease training session organized by the union.
The minimal training lasted less than an hour and focused on removing contaminated gloves and washing up properly after potential exposure.
It was attended by workers from LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airport, who fumbled with putting on and taking off bright blue and green latex gloves, which they said were thicker and better quality than the ones supplied by their employer.
"The bottom line is, I don't want to die," said Shareeka Elliott, 27, a terminal cleaner at JFK who said she attended the training out of a fear of contracting Ebola at work.
Cabin cleaner Marisa Collado, 46, said in Spanish: "When we clean toilets we don't know if they are infected with Ebola."
Another airline cabin cleaner, Kenny Gangji, 27, said despite his Ebola concerns, he plans to keep his job.
"I have to work, I have no choice," said Gangji, noting that "sometimes when I pick up garbage, my gloves will break."