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Airport Workers Tell City Hall Wages Still Low

February 28, 2014

Airport workers pack the City Council chambers during Thursday's hearing.
Airport workers pack the City Council chambers during Thursday’s hearing.

By Marc Bussanich 

New York, NY—Port Authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye, issued a directive last month to airlines at the region’s three major airports to increase airport workers’ wages by $1 an hour. The workers told the City Council they still haven’t received the wage increase. Video

Prince Jackson, a security officer at John F. Kennedy International Airport, said he hasn’t had a wage increase in four years.

“I haven’t received a single raise. Not one single penny. I always want to make a point of that.”

Shareeka Elliot, who works as an airport cleaner at JFK, told Councilman Daneek Miller of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor she has to rely on public assistance to help pay for food for her family.

“I only make $12,000 a year. You can’t even live in New York on $20,000. That was years ago.”

Also testifying, James A. Parrott, an economist with the Fiscal Policy Institute, told the committee that perhaps the best way to raise airport workers’ wages is for the city to use its extensive contracting power to lift wages for low-wage workers throughout the city.

According to Parrott, the city’s budget has a big impact on the low-wage labor market through the $5 billion the city spends annually on contracts with non-profit social service providers.

“Hopefully, this year will mark the beginning of a concerted effort by the city to systematically use the range of tools at its disposal to establish a meaningful wage floor.”

Robert Hill, vice president with 32BJ SEIU, the union trying to organize workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports, said in an interview that one month after Mr. Foye issued the directive, the workers went to City Hall to keep up pressure on the airlines to increase wages to at least $9.00 an hour and then a phase-in to $10.10.

“The City Council can, to the extent the airlines and/or their contractors are getting any city subsidies, or want future ones, make it clear to the airlines they have to comply with what Pat Foye set out,” said Hill

Hill noted that Delta and American Airlines have committed to raising wages by March 1, while United and JetBlue haven’t committed to the raise.

The Daily News reported on Monday that Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito wrote to JetBlue's CEO, David Barger, urging the compnay to raise workers' wages by $1 an hour. 

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