Persistence is beginning to pay off for contract workers at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports, with the Port Authority and Delta Air Lines agreeing to grant pay increases.
The workers are employed by companies who contract out services such as security, maintenance and custodial and cleaning services for the PA and individual airlines.
Workers, supported by clergy and some City Council members, recently rallied outside LaGuardia, a rally that resulted in 32 arrests for acts of civil disobedience.
But three other airlines, through their national trade association, issued a statement that raised numerous possible legal issues should PA Executive Director Patrick Foye follow through on a threat to ban them from the future Central Terminal at LaGuardia if they do not accede to the demands of the workers and the union that is attempting to organize them into a bargaining unit.
Foye on Jan. 27 called on airlines to give workers making less than $9 per hour an immediate $1 raise; receive the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a paid holiday; and work toward some kind of pay and benefit package for those who work at airports.
“As current users of the [Central Terminal Building] you should know that the new CTB lease provisions the developers and airlines ... will be required to sign will mandate those worker protection provisions not only for the CTB but also for each terminal each CTB airline uses at both of the NYC airports,” Foye wrote in a letter dated Feb. 10 to airline CEOs David Barger of Queens-based JetBlue, W. Douglas Parker of American Airlines, and Jeff Smisek of United Airlines. Foye wrote that improved wage and benefit packages cannot wait.
“By taking this action, we will together treat these workers justly, reduce turnover, enhance service levels and place all airlines at the New York City Port Authority airports on a level taxiway, so to speak,” Foye wrote.
Delta agreed to the conditions on Jan. 29. In a statement from his office on Tuesday, Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), a former transit union leader, congratulated the workers and applauded Delta.
“I urge the three remaining airlines at John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports to follow suit,” Miller said. “This issue strikes at the heart of the ‘two cities’ that New York has become.”
Miller is chairman of the Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee.
And while Foye was appointed to the PA by Gov. Cuomo, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has effectively quashed any such raises at Newark-Liberty Airport, which also is operated by the PA.
A call to JetBlue on Tuesday resulted in a referral to Airlines for America, which raised the aforementioned legal issues in a statement emailed to the Chronicle.
“No company — in any industry — dictates to its vendors what their employees should be paid,” AFA said. “The legislature, not the Port Authority, is the appropriate vehicle through which to make changes to the minimum wage, which would appropriately affect all workers, rather than just those from one industry.”
AFA also pointed out that airlines negotiate individually with their vendors and contractors to obtain goods and services.
“It would raise antitrust law concerns for the airlines to share with each other the details of their agreements or to discuss their plans regarding the terms of their agreements with their contractors,” the statement concluded.