Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy testified at the board meeting of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Their goal? To push for the agency to increase airport workers’ pay.
“The workers of this region’s airports should not be divided by state lines,” said de Blasio during his testimony. “They do the same work on both sides of the Hudson River and deserve the same wages. The Port Authority must treat workers the same at all of its facilities and authorize a $15 hourly wage and sufficient benefits now.”
“Newark Airport workers who do the same job as New York airport workers should not be left behind to struggle in poverty,” added Murphy, a former U.S. Ambassador. “At the very least, the Port Authority should raise Newark Airport workers’ wages to a minimum of $15 per hour so that there is parity across the Hudson River.”
Murphy concluded that the $15 per hour minimum wage would help “lift up workers, their families and their communities.”
Both men were testifying a month after the Port Authority denied parity for Newark Airport workers who, when New York State’s $15 minimum wage law takes effect in December, will make less than LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airport workers. According to 32BJ officials, the agency promised to raise wages and benefits for airport workers in 2014 but only presented a plan that they voted against at the previous board meeting.
“We now have thousands of cleaners, customer service representatives, baggage handlers, food service workers and security personnel laboring under conditions that are simply unfair,” said de Blasio. “The reality for these hard-working men and women, who are mostly people of color, is that their salaries are insufficient to support their families. In addition, many have no access to health insurance or are offered plans they can’t afford, and that’s just wrong.”
Recently, the PANYNJ implemented an increase in wages and benefits for directly contracted employees, but subcontracted workers hope to see their share of the pie as well. The agency did raise wages for subcontracted workers from $9.01 to $10.10, but agency chair John Degnan said last month that they weren’t a social welfare agency.
32BJ officials also pointed out that PANYNJ can afford to embark on a renovation projection for LaGuardia but does not invest in the employees who keep the place running.
“Airport workers will not give up because of one poorly executed, incomplete vote,” testified 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa. “And they’re not alone in this fight. From Trenton to Albany, elected officials have vowed to stand with these hard-working men and women until they get what they deserve—a living wage, meaningful benefits and respect.” Figueroa said that because most of the subcontracted employees are people or color, PANYNJ’s vote against wage increases hits minorities harder than most.