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Queens Chronicle

Airport workers stage wage-hike rally in Kew Gardens

Pay, benefits at issue in march on security company on Queens Blvd.

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Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:53 am, Thu Jun 5, 2014.

Contract workers at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports ratcheted up the pressure on May 22 in their effort to secure pay raises and other benefits.

More than 100 workers, many of them employed in security jobs, marched with supporters outside the Kew Gardens office building that houses Aviation Safeguard, a firm that supplies uniformed security personnel to airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union have been working for more than a year to help contract workers organize.

The workers and supporters gathered at Borough Hall before marching across up the street to Aviation Safeguards’ offices.

They entered the building in an attempt to give company officials a letter of support signed by former Mayor David Dinkins and members of the clergy, but were asked to leave. They did so and rallied on a knoll outside the building on Queens Boulevard, yelling “No justice, no peace!”

“Specifically, the workers are demanding fair wages, health benefits and respect for their important work,” the letter stated.

The letter reiterated that thousands of workers have expressed the desire for 32BJ to represent them.

A major issue is that some jobs pay employees higher hourly wages for contracts with the Port Authority than they do for the same work carried out for airlines.

“We work just as hard as officers and cleaners contracted by the Port Authority, so why aren’t we earning wages and benefits on par with Port Authority subcontractors like Allied Barton?” airport security guard Michael Carey asked during a brief speech to the crowd.

“I’m making the same $8.50 per hour that I was making when I was hired five years ago,” said after the rally. “Even a dollar increase wouldn’t be big, but it would help.”

Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, three months ago directed the four major airlines using Kennedy and LaGuardia to give $1 per hour raises for all contracted workers like Carey who make $9 per hour or less and to begin phasing in raises that will bring workers up to $10.10 per hour.

The workers include those in security, cabin and terminal cleaners, wheelchair attendants and baggage handlers.

A union spokesman said that to date, Delta and American airlines have agreed to the change and have begun paying “most of the workers” at higher rates.

United and JetBlue, the latter with its headquarters in Long Island City, thus far have declined.

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