November 27, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
Queens, NY—For the second consecutive day airport workers demonstrated against what they say are poor working conditions. On Monday airport workers walked through Terminal 7 at JFK Airport to drop off petitions to notify the airlines they aren’t happy with their low wages and no health benefits. On Tuesday they walked through LaGuardia Airport before Port Authority police escorted them outside.
The workers work as skycaps, airplane cleaners, baggage handlers and security guards for a variety of different subcontractors who in turn receive outsourcing contracts from the major airlines. Some of the contractors receiving contracts include Airway Cleaners, Prime Flight, AirServ and Aviation Safeguard. 32BJ, the property services union, has been leading a campaign for the past year to improve the workers' conditions.
While the workers say they are earning meager wages, the Global Gateway Alliance, founded by developer Joseph Sitt to advocate for major infrastructure improvements to the region’s three main airports, just released a report showing that the airports generated $63 billion of economic activity in 2012. The report notes that the region's major airports—Newark Liberty, JFK and LaGuardia—support 448,000 jobs with an average wage of $51,000.
Showing support for the airport workers on Tuesday was Councilman-elect Costa Constantinides who’ll represent the 22nd Council District, which encompasses Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Jackson Heights. He picked up major union endorsements during the election to best his three opponents with 56 percent of the vote.
“This is an economic development issue. When we have shared success for all, our neighborhoods thrive. I’m here to tell the airlines that we need better working conditions for the workers that make this airport run,” said Constantinides.
We spotted Noah Gotbaum, another City Council hopeful who lost in the primary to Helen Rosenthal, just as the workers were leaving the terminal to get his response to the protest, but he was running late for his departure.
Follow Marc Bussanich on Twitter firstname.lastname@example.org