November 14, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Most food service and retail workers employed at metropolitan area airports are forced to try and hold down multiple jobs just to scrape by in this town – but something as insignificant as a nickel tacked onto the cost of an airline ticket could boost sub-minimum wages by as much as a dollar.
“I see their checks – $275 a week,” says Unite Here! Local 100 Representative Jamie Avila. “In New York you can’t survive on $275 a week. So, they have to have two jobs. But the quality of life is not there because you’re working 16, 17 hours a day.”
The union will be rallying workers at JFK International Airport’s Terminal 4 on Tuesday, November 18, in an effort to compel the Port Authority of NY & NJ, as well as the major airlines, to support a $10.10 minimum wage for all workers.
Sky Chef, one of a growing list of companies where Local 100 has succeeded in organizing airport workers, has already moved to a $10.10 minimum wage. Other successful companies, however, have been giving workers the “runaround” for months, offering vague excuses for not immediately following suit, and blaming expensive leases for their inaction.
While the union has directly appealed to the restaurants and shops holding those airport leases to do the right thing and pay workers sustainable wages, Avila says that the airlines themselves could single-handedly uplift workers.
“We are working company by company, but at the same time we are going to the airlines and saying, look, all you have to do is send them an email saying they have to pay the $10.10, and that would solve the problem,” Avila said.
Over the past year, workers buoyed by Local 100’s efforts have repeatedly testified at Port Authority hearings about the need to institute a $10.10 minimum wage for all workers.
Now, they are hoping a demonstration attracting the support of the flying public will finally drive the message home.
“We just want to make sure we have a voice,” Avila said. “We gave them the message, but they’re just not listening.”
The Port Authority did not respond to requests for comment. Sky Chef also declined comment.