April 7, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Queens, NY—Airport workers marched 10 miles from JFK Airport to LaGuardia Airport on the 46th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination to keep pressure on the major airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to raise their wages. Video
The march culminated at the spot—the 94th Street and Ditmars Boulevard bridge—where 32 protestors were arrested for civil disobedience on MLK’s holiday, January 20th.
According to some airport workers and 32BJ SEIU, the property services union helping 12,000 airport workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports organize for better working conditions, some things started to change after the January 20 demonstration.
They say that Delta Airlines was the first to sign on to the plan to raise immediately airport workers earning $9 or less an hour by $1-an-hour with a phase-in to $10.10. American Airlines signed on too, but has yet to bump up the wage. Unfortunately, JetBlue has balked and United Airlines remains silent.
The subcontracted airport service workers make less than $9-an-hour for jobs such as cabin cleaning, terminal security, baggage handling, wheelchair assistance and sky cap services—jobs the union says used to pay living wages.
But Wendy Arellano, a single mom, has to work three jobs to sustain her family in a $600 a month room. She’s been working at LaGuardia for almost two years without her employer, Air Serv, giving her a raise.
“I haven’t seen a raise other than the raise Pat Foye demanded,” Arellano said.
She hopes after a long, 10-mile march the airlines and subcontractors start paying better wages.
“I hope they realize that we sacrifice a 10-mile walk, which I don’t think any of them would do, they need to respect us as workers [because] we need benefits and we want to be unionized.”
Also walking for 10-miles in the rain and cold on Friday to help airport workers was Hazel Ingram, who marched in the 1963 March on Washington and worked as a 32BJ member for almost 70 years.
She said she was glad to walk with airport workers.
“These people are making only $7 an hour. There’s no way you can live on $7 an hour today. A gallon of milk costs $2. They need a living wage, not a minimum wage,” said Ingram.
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