Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Wheelchair Attendants Exposed to Blood, Body Fluids: Complaint Filed - Unsafe Conditions

MIAMI - Workers at one of Florida's largest airports are announcing federal complaints today, alleging unsafe conditions, including exposure to sometimes-hazardous bodily fluids. Wheelchair attendants at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport are calling on both the Department of Transportation and OSHA to investigate what they call unsafe working conditions, according to Eric Brakken, Florida District Director for Service Employees Union local 32BJ.

"I've pushed passengers with no brakes, no tires, sometimes I have to get stuff from the bathroom to clean the wheelchairs myself. I've gotten sick doing this job."

 "Wheelchair attendants have been working without training or protective gear, and the workers are being exposed to passengers that are bleeding, that have vomited, while being taken to their aircraft," Brakken explained.

Brakken said the complaints name the firms Superior, Direct Airline Services and Bags, which subcontract wheelchair services for such major carriers as Jet Blue, Spirit and U.S. Airways. The companies are expected to receive official notification of the complaint today.

The union stated that federal law requires that airlines and their subcontractors provide wheelchairs that are safe, as well as training and protective gear to workers, but attendant Gloria Nejjar says the contractors are failing in each of those requirements.

"I've pushed passengers with no brakes, no tires, sometimes I have to get stuff from the bathroom to clean the wheelchairs myself," she said. "I've gotten sick doing this job."

Nejjar said the feds need to investigate because these conditions are unsafe both for workers and for the air travelers with disabilities that they are trying to serve.

"I don't want to get contaminated, I don't someone to get sick, I don't want somebody to get hurt," Nejjar said. "I want better equipment, better management, somebody that really cares about what we are doing."

Workers, clergy and union members plan to announce the complaints at the airport this morning at 11 a.m. between terminals 3 and 4. 

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