As home to two of the country’s biggest airports, Queens owes much of its economic activity and jobs to JFK and LaGuardia. Airports sell merchandise, employ local residents and need support staff to keep things running around the clock. Those jobs used to pay decent wages that allowed Queens families to live nearby and raise their kids in our city.
But now, there’s a disturbing trend. According to a recent report by researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, wages from airport jobs are falling rapidly as families find themselves struggling just to pay the bills and keep up. That’s because loopholes and outside contracting exempts many of these employees from the wages and benefits that come with being an official employee of a major airline company. As a result, one out of three airport workers lives in poverty and relies on taxpayer assistance to feed and shelter their families.
Anyone who’s recently paid for an airline flight can tell you that’s just wrong. Workers and their families deserve family-sustaining wages and real job benefits like health and dental insurance. My whole career, I’ve fought to make that a priority at every level of state and city government — and I won’t stop as borough president.
We need to level the playing field, and give workers a tool to get the wages and benefits they deserve. The employees who work for airline contractors at LaGuardia and JFK have signed cards to join a union and demand a living wage from their management—and now it’s on us to stand by them.
That’s why I’m going to be using the most valuable tool at my disposal to raise awareness of this issue, and ensure all airport workers in our borough get the wages they deserve. By using the bully pulpit of the Queens Borough President’s Office, I’ll spread the word and engage in dialogue with airports, government agencies, airline companies, and their contractors to try and reach a meaningful settlement that makes life better for workers across the borough.
In the coming weeks and months, you’ll be reading more about those efforts. In the mean time, I invite all residents to learn more about this issue at: TKTK.com.
Melinda Katz is Queens Borough President-Elect and a former city councilwoman and state assemblywoman.