Poor working conditions are creating a crisis at John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia airports for workers and passengers alike. The crisis is caused by low-bid private contractors like Airway Cleaners/Alstate Maintenance, PrimeFlight, AirServ and Aviation Safeguard who pay poverty wages and offer little or no paid holidays, vacation time and sick days.
“I make $7.90 an hour with no benefits,” explains airport worker Shareeka Elliott. “My pay does not begin to cover my bills or food for me and my daughters. It takes two of my paychecks to cover just the electric bill. By the time I pay daycare for my daughters, pay for transportation to work, I have nothing left over. Which means I am juggling the bills for the other expenses, seeing what bill I could afford not to pay until the next month.
“There are many, many workers at New York area’s three airports who are in the same boat as I am. This is no way to live. We deserve human dignity. We deserve respect.”
For over a year the workers have tried to make these contractors understand that they can’t support their families under these conditions, but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. So hundreds of airport workers are taking their complaints to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and they are demanding a gesture from the agency that it will take their concerns seriously.
The airport workers demand and declare that MLK Day 2014 will be a paid holiday for all airport workers.
January 20, 2014 is Martin Luther King Day.
Dr. King was killed while fighting for Memphis sanitation workers who were working under deplorable conditions and making what would be $11.41 per hour today. 46 years after his death, most of these airport workers earn just $8 per hour, and also work under deplorable conditions.
Passenger service workers employed by these low-bid contractors say they want the holiday pay as a gesture that the Port Authority will address their larger concerns about poverty wages and inadequate to non-existent benefits.