Port Authority Bus Terminal (253077)
Credit: Twitter/@PABusTerminal

This month, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey voted on a new wage resolution that would increase their workers’ base pay from minimum wage to $19 an hour by 2023. The raises would affect 40,000 workers in New York and New Jersey airports, including security officers, wheelchair agents, baggage handlers, terminal cleaners and other airport workers.

Workers could start seeing pay raises as early as this summer.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum, UNITE HERE Local 100 President Bill Granfield and Local 1102 RWDSU President Alvin Ramnarain responded in a joint statement.

“We enthusiastically support the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s new wage resolution, which was unanimously approved at today’s Board of Commissioners meeting,” read their statement. “Service workers at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Liberty are key to the success and security of our region’s airports. The new wage floor of $19 per hour by 2023 shows tens of thousands of workers that they are valued by the people of New York and New Jersey and will allow hard-working men and women to finally support themselves and their families with their airport job.”

The union leaders also said that PANYNJ’s resolution remedies an oversight in the policy passed in 2014 that didn’t include airline catering workers.

“We did this together, we fought for so long and we won!” said Gertrudes Lopez-Ortiz, a cabin cleaner at Newark Liberty International Airport, in a statement. “Now it is a dream come true for me and my co-workers! I was here when the Port originally promised this in 2014. Our hard work, and the support of our brothers and sisters in 32BJ is paying off.”

In 2012, airport workers at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Airports linked up with members of 32BJ SEIU to fight for better wages and benefits. Workers staged multiple walkouts during major holidays and travel seasons and have kept up the pressure on their bosses to help them make ends meet. In 2016, airport workers won union recognition through 32BJ and negotiated their first contract.

32BJ President Hector Figueroa said airport workers deserve everything they’ve worked for.

“Airport workers are on the front lines of ensuring safety and improving services at our airports. They greet passengers, clean the terminals and airplanes and load bags into planes,” said Figueroa in a statement. “In emergencies passengers often turn to these workers for help. That is why it is so important that we invest in them and in their training and retention. Providing family sustaining wages will help keep more workers on the job longer and help them build their expertise to make our airports safer and run smoother.”

Some of the protests and walkouts over the past few years have happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which have led to arrests. Airport workers eventually won MLK Day as a paid holiday and got PANYNJ to raise their wages from $7.25 to $10.20 an hour. One worker said the latest will satisfy all workers.

“This will change our lives and give our families brighter futures,” said JFK Security Agent Canute Drayton in a statement. “I have seen so many colleagues leave their airport jobs because they couldn’t afford to support their families on such low pay. Now I think they will stick around and like me they’ll be able to develop the experience and training to keep passengers safe and help them get to their destinations quickly and efficiently.”