Nearly 100 airport workers from Newark, LaGuardia and Kennedy erupted in cheers after the Port Authority announced that it unanimously approved raises for all 40,000 workers.
“We want to do it right, that’s why we took the extra step. You want to be critical, be critical, but we’re doing the right thing. We’re moving ahead, so it is bulletproof,” said Port Authority Chair Kevin O’Toole.
The wage boost to $19 an hour would be phased in by 2023. Under the approved plan, in November airport workers will make $12.45 an hour. That’ll be increased to $15.60 on Sept. 1, 2019, with additional annual increases until the wage reaches $19 an hour on Sept. 1, 2023.
It’s also a victory for New York, where both LaGaurdia and Kennedy airport workers will get similar increases.
“The simple, undeniable truth is too many working men and women and middle class people are fulfilling their side of the bargain but they are not enjoying a decent living, that is the undeniable truth,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“I’ve been living in one apartment with family for the past 10 years,” said Mojisola, a Newark Airport worker. “But will this coming up now, I believe that I’ll be able to live in a mansion.”
Union officials say the wage increase will not just reduce turnover, it’ll also increase sales at local businesses.
“Workers at this level, who now have a little spending money, are going to spend that money in their community,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President Robert Hill, “because workers now care about their jobs. And it’s sad that the airline industry is still fighting this and trying to pit passengers and workers against the airlines as if they are on opposite sides when we’re trying to create a better airport and a better experience for everybody.”
But not everyone was satisfied by the Port Authority’s progress. During the public forum, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka took issue with how he says the agency proposed to redesign Port Street, which is owned by the city, without their permission or participation.
“We just not going to allow it to happen. People know If I’m talking, that means I mean it. I’m not saying it just to breathe. We are not going to allow Port Authority to come onto our property, our city property, and develop, or do anything for that matter, without our consent, without our discussion, without moving forward on issues that we think are important to us. It’s just not going to happen. Even if I have to put garage trucks on Port Street, it’ll never happen. I’m telling you that right now, and I rather let you know in advance before throwing tea in the harbor,” Baraka said.
While the Port Authority board listened to the mayor, it did not have a response to the claims.