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Airport workers take to PANYNJ meeting to demand higher wages

Stephon Johnson | 11/23/2017, midnight
New Jersey airport workers’ ongoing battle for increased wages continued at a recent meeting.
Airport

New Jersey airport workers’ ongoing battle for increased wages continued at a recent meeting.

Last week, airport workers attended a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey board meeting urging its members to make good on better wages and benefits for airport workers.

Back in 2014, the Port Authority promised airport workers in New Jersey and New York “a better wage and benefits plan.” Workers said progress has been slow and they demand that the PANYNJ act now. Earlier this year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed state legislature that would’ve raised the wages of airport workers to approximately $18 plus benefits. New York State Gov. Cuomo supported the State Assembly’s vote for increasing airport workers’ wages in his state.

According to 32BJ President Hector Figueroa, the Port Authority should step in because Gov. Christie won’t.

“The Port board should be setting the standard to ensure all subcontractors pay living wages and benefits that will help make our airports safer and run smoother and faster for passengers,” said Figueroa in a statement. “With good jobs that help workers stay in their jobs longer and training so they know how to prevent and react to emergencies, we can make NYC-area airports more secure, more efficient and a more pleasant for the millions of passengers that pass through them each year.”

Yvette Stephens, a passenger escort at Newark Airport, spoke at the board meeting and said wage increases are needed for workers to afford basic needs.

“New Jersey is an expensive state and I can barely make ends meet on a $10.20-an-hour salary,” Stephens said. “After paying my rent, $200 in monthly co-pays for the medicine I take to treat my multiple sclerosis, food and transportation, there’s very little left over.”

Stephens also urged Port Authority commissioners to establish “family-sustaining” wages and benefits, and better training for airport workers to keep passengers safe during the holiday season.

Around this time last year, 8,000 workers at LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark airports tentatively agreed to their first ever union contract. New York airport workers received their first raise toward $15 minimum wage in January. With the help of the 32BJ, the tentative agreement, with 11 airline subcontractors, included seniority rules, scheduling protocols, disciplinary procedures and health and safety guidelines.

But that didn’t extend to all subcontractors, which is why workers such as Saeed Bacchus want to make sure younger workers have it better than some of his peers did.

“Few of my colleagues stay on the job for very long, and we could really use people with more experience like me,” said Bacchus, a security worker at John F. Kennedy Airport, in a statement. “But as a father and grandfather, I know how hard it is to make ends meet on these wages. That’s why we need the Port board to set a standard for living wages and benefits so that workers can support their families, stay on the job and make our airports safer.”