NEW YORK—Bad service contractors, poor working conditions, poverty wages, and lack of respect in the workplace create a crisis for workers and passengers alike, airport workers from all over the region said during a protest at LaGuardia Airport.
Employees of area airports’ largest private contractors continued a week of holiday protests by delegating and presenting hundreds of petitions signed by contracted airport service workers to American and Delta airlines and a terminal managing agency called LAAMCO. The workers are asking for “a living wage that sustains our families and our communities, access to quality affordable healthcare for ourselves and our families and the equipment and resources necessary to do our jobs and to provide passengers with quality service.”
Councilman-elect Costa Constantinides, whose district covers the New York City airports, stood up for the workers.
“Airport workers should not have to accept poverty wages or poor health coverage to keep our airports clean and secure, especially during this holiday season and one of the busiest traveling times of the year. Earning a fair living wage also helps drive economic development, a benefit to the entire community,” he said.
In Newark, airport service workers were joined by local clergy in a Thanksgiving Prayer at the airport to demand improved working standards that allow them to enjoy a proper celebration with their families.
“Like so many other airport workers who clean terminals and airplanes at Newark Airport,” Ulysses Grant, who minimum wage cleaning aircrafts for the past decade, said, “I’m about to run out of money. Paying rent is a struggle for most. On minimum wage it´s more like a miracle. Juggling the bills has become my pastime. A turkey for my family? Maybe next year.”
Workers say the crisis at airports is caused by low-bid subcontracting by airlines of security, cleaning and other functions at John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia airports to private contractors who pay poverty wages—significantly less than those directly employed by the airlines and the Port Authority.
Employees of Airway Cleaners/Alstate Maintenance, PrimeFlight, AirServ and Aviation Safeguard say they are fed up with their concerns being ignored.
“Things got so bad I had to send my two sons to live with their grandmother upstate in Poughkeepsie because I cannot afford to take care of them on my income,” Daniel Scott said.
“As a security guard for Aviation Safeguard at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal A, I make $8 an hour with no benefits,” he continued. “When I got hired here the salary was $8 and, at $8, they expect me to pay my rent, pay my transportation ($112 a month), $8 to buy food, $8 to pay for utilities, and to be able take care of my kids on that. That is impossible. I cannot do it. I still have to pay my cell phone bill. I cannot pay these bills.”
Workers will continue passenger and public outreach at all three airports on Wednesday.
With more than 145,000 members, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service union in the country.