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Philadelphia airport workers protest Ebola risk

Workers at the Philadelphia International Airport are protesting over concerns about potential exposure to Ebola, according to a union that is seeking to represent them. 

The workers, who clean planes at the Philadelphia airport for companies that subcontract with airlines, are complaining about work conditions that they say expose them to bodily fluids, such as blood and vomit, that could possibly transmit the deadly Ebola virus. 

The union that is seeking to represent the protesting airport workers, the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, said Wednesday the employees are at risk because they have not been given proper protective gear that is normally used to minimize exposure to Ebola.  

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“Potentially hazardous exposure to bodily fluids and questionable protective gear like flimsy latex gloves have airport workers sounding the alarm about ongoing health and safety concerns at the Philadelphia International Airport,” the union said in a news release about a planned event Wednesday afternoon. 

“Amid rising fears about the Ebola virus in the U.S., the concerns of Philadelphia airport workers echo complaints from front line workers around the country, including at many of our country’s airports,” the union statement continued. “Last week, airport workers at LaGuardia airport went on strike over similar concerns about health risks to airport workers and inadequate protective equipment from the low-bid airline contractors who employ them.” 

The Philadelphia protest comes a day after the Obama administration said it would force passengers who are traveling from African nations that are battling Ebola to reroute to one of five U.S. airports that have been set up for enhanced screening for symptoms of the deadly disease. 

The airports that have additional Ebola screening, which do not include Philadelphia, are Washington Dulles International Airport, O'Hare International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The Philadelphia protest mirrors a similar strike among workers who clean planes at New York’s LaGuardia Airport for a company called AirServ earlier this month. The spoke out as fears about Ebola began to mount following the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. 

U.S. officials have said that the enhanced screening at the five major airports would ensure 94 percent of passengers from the African nations battling the disease were screened. The Obama administration said rerouting the passengers would ensure the remaining 6 percent, which officials estimated would translate to approximately nine passengers per day, were screened for Ebola-like symptoms.