A crowd of people waited in line to get into the Port Authority’s board meeting, including Andrea Bundy. She’s been working as a cabin cleaner at JFK International Airport for around five years. Her salary is the minimum wage in New York of $12 an hour.
“I’m a single mother and it’s really hard with the wages that they’re giving us sometimes. I have to work 13 hours a day just to make ends meet. So, that’s why I’m really fighting hard for this,” said Bundy.
Newark Liberty International Airport workers said it’s been even worse for them because in New Jersey the minimum wage has not gone up as much, and that means they’ve been doing the same jobs, but getting paid less, around $10 an hour.
“Me and my community, my co-workers, we were in a depression,” said Christina Watson, a security officer at Newark Airport.
There was an energy in the room, hoping the Port Authority meeting would be the day it all changed. And they were right.
“We challenged ourselves and we said we’re going to come back within 60 days and we’re going to address the minimum wage issue with certainty, and we’re going to address this open contract that’s been dragging on for over 12 years,” said Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners.
“It is a matter of dignity and putting real value in the work that thousands of men and women provide every single day to keep our airports running,” he said.
The Port Authority board approved a proposal to gradually increase the minimum wage for all workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark to $19 an hour by 2023. Newark workers will see a $2 increase in their paychecks by September of 2018 if the proposal gets approved this summer.
“Nineteen dollars is going to change a lot. It’s going to change a lot. It’s going to be more active parents at home. Parents are going to be able to stay home. They’re not going to have two jobs,” said Watson.
Zakiyy Medina has worked as a baggage handler at Newark Airport for two years. He said the proposal means he and his colleagues get to finally go home with the amount of money they deserve, and it isn’t just a win for him, it’s a win for his family.
“My grandmother, she’s sick, and I’m just so glad this happened because I get to finally take care of her,” Medina said.
That was the same reaction from Bundy, who said it will not only change her life, but it’s going to change her daughter’s life, too.
“With that $19, there’s so much things we’re going to do. Our lifestyle will be different. We can now afford things that we could not do for the last five years,” she said.
Workers hugged, cheered, and some like Bundy even had tears in their eyes.