In the past few months Dominise Wright has led her coworkers at aircraft cleaning contractor Ultimate in protests against Jet Blue and spoke alongside Senator Chuck Schumer at a rally to obtain better wages through the Port Authority last June.
It’s a big change for the young worker but she says her dad has inspired her to step forward and help lead the fight.
Dominise has worked for Ultimate at JFK airport for about two years. She is a cabin cleaner for Ultimate and helps clean the JFK terminals that service almost 12 million passengers a year. But the job isn’t easy.
While Ultimate cleaners are entrusted with keeping planes and terminals clean for the public, they have been have been forced to file OSHA health and safety complaints because they have been deprived of the training and safety materials that they need to protect themselves on the job. On top of this, Dominise and her coworkers are paid poverty wages and are not provided with the benefits— like affordable health insurance and adequate, paid vacation— they need to keep themselves healthy.
“I know I am a good worker, but the working conditions at the airport make life very hard. I don’t make enough money and I am barely able to survive. I just want to be able to pay my bills and maybe help out around the house,” Dominise said. With her low pay, she’s still living at home with her parents because she can’t afford a place of her own.
Last week airport workers from New York and New Jersey headed to the monthly Port Authority Board Meeting to mark a one-year anniversary of justice deferred. It’s been a full year since the board first missed its self-imposed deadline to release a better wage and benefits plan that would lift airport workers out of poverty. And airport workers called on the board to make good on its promises.
Airport workers like Dominise service some of America’s busiest airports but are not provided with the pay they need in order to afford the basics in New York City. Meanwhile, millions of dollars are going to be spent to modernize the airports and make them more beautiful. As she begins to step into a leadership role among airport workers, Dominise says looks to her father for inspiration.
“My father is a 32BJ commercial cleaning member,” she said. “He has taught me what it means to work hard and has shown me what it means to have a good job. As an aircraft cleaner, I follow in his footsteps.”
Now that Governor Cuomo has helped fast food workers win a path to $15 an hour, airport leaders like Dominise are preparing to put more pressure on the Port Authority to keep good on their promise and raise airport workers out of poverty as well.