Port Authority orders airlines to raise wages, give paid holiday to airport workers
BY ANGY ALTAMIRANO
Airport workers have won a battle for justice.
Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Director Patrick Foye has ordered the CEOs of Delta, JetBlue, American and United airlines to immediately raise wages and make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday for the 8,000 contracted workers at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.
Foye sent a letter to the four CEOs telling them to grant an immediate $1 an hour raise to workers making $9 or less, recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday and work towards “providing an improved wage and benefits package to the thousands of hard-working men and women at the airports.”
The announcement comes a week after close to 1,000 workers, elected officials and clergy members blocked a bridge leading to LaGuardia Airport on Martin Luther King Jr. Day during an act of civil disobedience demanding “economic justice.”
“Pat Foye’s letter is a promising step forward and marks the first real progress we have made in lifting thousands of contracted airport workers out of poverty,” said Hector Figueroa, president of SEIU 32 BJ, a union representing most of the airport workers. “We have gotten to this point due to the courage of the contracted airport workers and their willingness to take action – including being arrested for civil disobedience at LaGuardia Airport on MLK Day along with Congressmember Charles Rangel and many others.”
During the day of civil disobedience, more than 30 people were arrested, including city and state elected officials, and workers.
“It’s good that someone is finally listening to us and responding,” said Wendy Arellano, a LaGuardia Airport cabin cleaner. “This is a good plan. It’ll be better when we have good benefits, security and the peace of mind that a good contract gives you. But, for now, getting us up to 10 dollars and 10 cents is a real start.”
Figueroa said that the work will still continue to “bring contracted airport workers the dignity and respect they deserve,” and also help these workers get out of the path to poverty and succeed in gaining economic justice.
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