Thursday May 28, 2015 — Today during the monthly Port Authority Board Meeting the agency announced the winner of a multi-billion dollar rehabilitation project for LaGuardia airport while further delaying a better wage and benefits plan that would lift 12,000 airport workers out of poverty. We cannot claim to have a 21st century airport while workers toil under 19thcentury wages and working conditions. While the Port Authority has finally moved forward on modernizing what Vice President Joe Biden famously deemed “a third world airport”, a concrete plan for improving working standards at the airports has been put on hold for nearly nine months.
“We service some of America’s busiest airports in the country but are not given the pay we need to take care of ourselves and our families. Meanwhile, millions of dollars are going to be spent to modernize the airports and make them more beautiful? It’s ridiculous,” said Juan Chapman, An Aviation SafeGuards security officer at LaGuardia airport. “I don’t want to do anything extravagant, I just want to be able to pay my bills and take care of my family. By giving airport workers higher wages the Port Authority would be helping not only airport workers, but our families and our communities as well.”
More than 500 airport workers, elected officials— including NY Congressman Charles Rangel, NYC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, NYC Councilman Daniel Garodnick and Councilman Ben Kallos – clergy members, low wage workers and other community supporters rallied today to demand the Port Authority immediately release its promised wage and benefits plan in order to fully to modernize the airports and lift airport workers out of poverty.
“I thank 32BJ for leading the fight to urge the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to give airport workers a raise. I am proud to join them again to demand higher wages and benefits for the workers who deserve to support their families, contribute to our economy, and plan for a brighter future,” said Congressman Charles B. Rangel who attended the rally Thursday.
“New York City’s airport workers deserve more than starvation wages,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “They have a right to make a decent living, feed their families and climb the ladder into the middle class. We stand together today–united for improved working conditions, good benefits and the opportunity for airport employees to build a better economic future.”
There are 12,000 subcontracted airport workers in New York and New Jersey who have been fighting for the past 3 years for higher wages, benefits and the right to union representation. They are part of a growing mass movement of airport workers who have been organizing in cities around the country and have joined the Fight for $15 movement that is calling for a living wage. While the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has raised airport workers’ wages to $10.10, too many are still living below the poverty line with little or no benefits. Despite billions of dollars in taxpayer investment to make airports into hubs of prosperity, the 12,000 subcontracted out airport workers in New York and New Jersey are living on the brink, struggling to make ends meet and forced to rely upon taxpayer-funded programs.
“When a company’s employees are on public assistance, then it is getting a public subsidy. That can’t fly. This is an industry raking in record profits, and they don’t need our charity. They can do better for their workers,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick.
“I stand in solidarity with every airport worker fighting make above poverty wages to support themselves and their families. I stand in solidarity with all those seeking paid sick leave and vacation days. Our airports here in New York and New Jersey should be staffed by workers making livable wages and benefits, because poverty doesn’t fly,” said New York City Council Member Ben Kallos.
In order to fully bring LaGuardia airport into the 21st century, we must not only pay attention to the buildings and runways but also to the men and women who keep the airports running and who affect passenger experience from curbside to takeoff.
“Thousands of airport workers from New York City know all too well that poverty doesn’t fly,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “We cannot continue to ignore the realities that these hardworking men and women of our area airports experience. As a proud son of union parents I stand by the SEIU 32BJ’sFight for $15 and encourage the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to hear our cause so that we can deliver dignity to countless New Yorkers who provide critical services and security for us every day.”
You cannot modernize an airport by simply beautifying while maintaining outdated working conditions.
“A 21st century airport should be an engine of an economy that works for all, not a hub of poverty and desperation. Airport jobs used to be good jobs but highly-profitable airlines have cut wages by outsourcing their responsibilities to often irresponsible contractors who pay their workers poverty wages with little or no benefits.” said Hector Figueroa President of 32BJ SEIU. “As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ The rent doesn’t wait, electric bills don’t wait, and airport workers can’t wait any longer. The Port Authority must act now.”
With 145,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.