Concerns Regarding Safety and Commuting to EWR Co-Base

Shane Rogers-Mauro, Chair
TWU/JetBlue IFC Health & Safety Committee

Our reserve flying partners based in JFK have recently been handed some new complications in their quality of life, their safety, their commute time, and even their wallets.

Under the previous Tentative Agreement, JetBlue Leadership was prohibited from making EWR a co-base for good reasons, and one of them was the safety of our Inflight Crewmembers (IFCs). The EWR co-base has become a reality—just in time for National Safety Month. Since we have yet to reach a ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement, the company has taken full advantage by making sudden changes like this, and unfortunately, we have become too accustomed to them. However, when it pertains to our safety, we must speak out as one.

Commuting on public transportation during late nights/early mornings to get to EWR from JFK is risky, costly and, quite frankly, unacceptable for our IFCs. Routes through Penn Station and World Trade Center can easily take more than the 2:45 call out time, especially during peak rush hour. In addition, peak fares on roundtrip public transportation can be over $60.00, and ride shares can cost $100 per trip—far exceeding the $80.00 per month transit check. Realistic times, IFC safety, and reasonable costs are what are expected at airlines by our customers. Realistic times, IFC safety, and reasonable costs are what we must demand in a situation like this.

JetBlue has crammed our IFCs, a dozen at a time, into a make-shift crew room in EWR with two chairs and a sign on the door stating, “maximum 3 people at one time due to Covid.” Management has told us a crew space is being created for us elsewhere, but in the rush to staff the EWR co-base, they seem to have forgotten some of the basic elements, including enough chairs, safe social distancing space, and fire escape safety. Tight quarters, tight report times, and unsafe train rides into EWR are unacceptable. JetBlue can and must do better for our IFCs. This is another reason why having a union contract to protect us matters so much. If a contract was in place, even without the co-base, our union would be able to fight against these unsafe conditions.

It’s time to let the company know that we are unhappy with these new and unilateral changes that disrupt our lives and dismiss our safety, and we are requesting immediate changes to this co-base idea. Safety from the ground up must include organized and guaranteed safety for our IFCs commuting from JFK to EWR. It also means ALWAYS keeping our crews safe and giving us the respect of hearing our issues with this co-base concept. Even though we don’t have a ratified contract, JetBlue should follow through on the commitment made during bargaining that EWR would not be a co-base. At the very least, they should agree to work with the TWU to find acceptable solutions.

It should be noted that EWR is not a co-base for our Pilots because their contract prohibits it. There are, in fact, many solutions being discussed with the TWU that truly make good sense. These include longer call-outs, coordinated shuttle transportation, reimbursed commutes for short callouts, and paid limos to EWR, just to name a few. The conversations need to start immediately, and each of us needs to let the TWU know of any ideas they think will help our IFCs when it comes to health and safety issues. Sometimes, what appears to work on paper doesn’t work in the real world. Send your issues, concerns, or comments about commuting to the EWR co-base to our Negotiating Team, so that we can speak with one voice at the bargaining table. Never forget to advise the TWU on EVERYTHING you feel is important for your health and safety by visiting the TWU/JetBlue IFC website.

Whether you are a line holder, flying Mint, on a leave of absence, or sitting reserve ASB, remember that WE are all “the Union” and Reserve issues like the EWR co-base belong to ALL of us. We are excited about the expansion of routes out of EWR, but our IFCs should not have to absorb the all the safety risks and bear the added costs of this decision.

Safety is often said to be the company’s #1 value. This is an opportunity for JetBlue to prove it to us.