Airport workers anticipate Port Authority-led wage raise Thursday

Stephon Johnson | 9/27/2018, 10:01 a.m.
Local airport workers might finally get what they’ve wanted for years: a raise in their minimum wage.

Local airport workers might finally get what they’ve wanted for years: a raise in their minimum wage.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is anticipated to vote in favor of raising the minimum wage for workers at LaGuardia, the John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty international airports to $19 per hour by 2023. It would be the highest minimum wage in the country.

Many New York and New Jersey airport workers are expected to attend Thursday’s PANYNJ board meeting to witness the Board of Commissioners vote.

“This will improve my life greatly,” said Donna Llanos, who works at Terminal 8 at JFK Airport, in a statement to the AmNews. “I can suddenly do some of the things that I used to put off because I could not afford them. The last time I thought about visiting my mother on the islands, I knew I could not afford to.”

In May, the PANYNJ was slated to vote on a wage resolution to increase their workers’ base pay for minimum wage to $19 an hour by 2023. Forty-thousand workers in New York and New Jersey airports would be affected, including security officers, wheelchair agents, baggage handlers, terminal cleaners and other airport workers (New York airport workers’ minimum wage is $13. New Jersey workers would see an $8.45 raise). Workers were hoping to see wage increases by this summer, but June 28, the board invoked an additional 30-day comment period to examine issues that came up before the vote. As of right now, the workers are still waiting.

Millie Perez, a cleaner at Newark Airport, said the wage increase would be a long time coming.

“This wage increase will improve my quality of life,” said Perez. “I will now be able to pay my bills on time, pay my rent without the additional late fee.”

In 2012, airport workers at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports linked up with 32BJ SEIU members to fight for better wages and benefits. This course of action included multiple walkouts during major holidays that coincided with major travel seasons. In 2016, airport workers won union recognition through 32BJ and negotiated their first contract.

Union leaders at 32BJ SEIU, who represents airport workers, said the resolution would remedy an oversight in the policy passed in 2014 that didn’t include airline catering workers.

Earlier this month, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and several locally elected officials rallied with airport workers to push for a $19-an-hour minimum wage.

Mabel Richards, a ticket checker and way rider at LaGuardia Airport, said in a statement that the raise would improve her quality of life.

“For me, personally, this is a giant leap because I am a single mother,” said Richards. “With the pay raise, I will be able to get better accommodations for me and my children. I will be able to better meet their needs.”