Airline Cabin Cleaners Strike Over Ebola Exposure Fears

Additional airport screenings are scheduled to begin at major US airports.

ByABC News
October 9, 2014, 7:28 AM

— -- Nearly 200 airline cabin cleaners walked off the job at a New York City airport overnight, striking over health and safety issues that include fears over possible exposure to Ebola.

The protest involves Air Serv cabin cleaners in Terminal D at New York’s LaGuardia airport, a contractor that serves Delta, as well as supporting workers from LaGuardia and JFK International airports.

Protesting workers carried signs and chanted during today’s rally, protesting against conditions that they say often find them encountering hypodermic needles, vomit and blood.

Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ was scheduled to conduct infectious disease training today for airport cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners and wheelchair attendants.

"The training will cover current guidance from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA)," the union said in a release. "This includes guidelines for cleaning airplane cabins and lavatories, for cleaning an area with possible Ebola exposure, and for determining which equipment employers are required to supply."

The union added, "Amid rising fears of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, the training will help workers better identify infectious disease hazards and protect against exposure and spread."

Such a response comes as additional screening is scheduled to begin at JFK and four other main U.S. airports, a means of trying to catch any travelers from Ebola-ravaged countries who may be carrying the disease.

About 150 travelers a day will have their temperatures checked using no-touch thermometers, and health officials expect false alarms from malaria-related fevers.

The extra screening probably wouldn't have singled out Thomas Eric Duncan when he arrived from hard-hit Liberia last month, because he had no symptoms while traveling. Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died Wednesday in Dallas.

Duncan’s nephew Joe Weeks told ABC News that Duncan had “unfair” medical treatment.

“No one has died of Ebola in the U.S. before. This is the first time,” Weeks told ABC News. “We need all the help we can get.”

Dallas Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Monnig, who helped serve a quarantine order on the apartment where Duncan had been staying, is under close watch at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas hospital after fears he may have been exposed to Ebola.

“This is a very scary time, and we are just trying to get through it,” his son, Logan Monnig, said.

The disease has killed at least 3,800 people in West Africa with no signs of abating. The presidents of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the countries hardest hit in the outbreak, are appealing today to the World Bank for more help for their nations.

"What we're paying for now is our failure to have invested in those countries before," said Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank's chief economist for Africa. They had only minimal health facilities even before Ebola hit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.