Airport workers protest low wages at JFK Airport
Airport workers protest low wages at JFK Airport

November 26, 2013
By Marc Bussanich 

Queens, NY—Airport workers who work as skycaps, terminal and airplane cleaners, security guards and baggage handlers for a variety of subcontractors at JFK Airport handed off a stack of petitions at British Airways’ and United Airlines’ counters to notify management that the flying public isn’t happy with the workers’ low pay and working conditions.  

The workers boarded the AirTrain to Terminal 7 and handed out flyers to the riding public explaining that compensation for CEO executives at United Airlines, American Airlines, US Airways and Delta earned a combined $20.9 million in 2012 while many of the workers said they earn as little as $7.25 an hour.

David Harrison, a skycap at Terminal 1 for the past three years, said he participated in today’s demonstration because the company he’s working for is underpaying him.

“Right now I’m making $4.15 an hour but New York’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. I hope the companies get the message that we’re sending them today,” said Harrison.

Parbatie Dhanrhah makes only $8.00 per hour cleaning the insides of the aircraft.

“The minimum wage is too little money for the kind of work we do,” said Dhanrhah

Rob Murray, an organizer with 32BJ, the property services union working with the airport workers for better pay and working conditions, said the workers decided to demonstrate during one of the busiest travel weeks to inform as many members of the flying public as possible.

“This is part of a week of actions where workers are reaching out to passengers to talk about their working conditions. There are thousands of subcontracted workers that work in the [region’s airports] that make about $8 an hour with no health insurance. We’re out here to let the public know this needs to stop,” said Murray.

According to Murray, the major airlines contract out numerous job functions to a myriad of subcontractors including Alstate Maintenance, Prime Flight, Airserv and Aviation Safeguard. Workers at LaGuardia Airport and Newark Airport are also planning protests on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

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