Vote on airport wages pushed back by PA 1

Airport workers, shown at a rally in 2014, are pressing the Port Authority to mandate a minimum wage of $19 per hour at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports.

Andrea Bondy knows that she didn’t become an airplane cabin cleaner to become wealthy.

She said Tuesday that the board of the Port Authority can go a long way to making her and her colleagues more financially secure by voting to approve a measure that would phase in a minimum wage of $19 per hour for about 40,000 contracted workers at the three major airports in the New York City region by 2023.

But the board agenda for Thursday’s meeting includes resolutions to extend the public comment period on wages by 30 days.

“The Port Authority’s staff has recommended a supplemental comment period focused on four newly raised issues to enable the Board to make well-reasoned and well-informed final determination on all issues with respect to increasing minimum wages at the airports,” according to a statement from the PA on Wednesday. “The proposed Board resolution specifies a final determination no later than the September Board meeting.”

Right now minimum at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports is $15. Across the Hudson River in New Jersey the minimum is $10.10.

Representatives of 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which has been attempting to organize the airport’s contract workers for six years, hosted a conference call on Tuesday where workers, union officials and supporters expressed their hopes that PA leadership is on board. The union represents cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, custodial and security personnel among others.

“I’m a single mother,” said Bondy, who has been working at JFK for six years. “It’s been rough. I have a daughter. I’m working six days a week with one day off.” She said it is hard to have the proper time with her daughter, and sometimes harder still to afford her child’s love of participating in track and field.

“That $19 would mean a lot to me,” she said.

Rob Hill, vice president and organizing director for 32BJ, said Tuesday he was hopeful that the board will see the benefits of creating better jobs.

Patrick Burns, a senior researcher at the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable, said the so-called ripple effects of the raises could be tremendous throughout airport communities and their surrounding regions by 2020, based on a report the group published two weeks ago.

“About 40,000 airport workers at or below $19 per hour would directly benefit from an increased minimum wage,” Burns said. “Eight-five percent of the workers have families.” He said more than half spend at least one-third of their income on housing.

Burns said a $19 minimum would generate up to $465 million in local economic activity by 2023, including money spent at grocery stores, gas stations, movie theaters and other businesses that would benefit from workers having more discretionary income. He said it could create 2,700 nonairport jobs as well.

The report states that the cumulative economic effect would raise more than $43.7 million in federal tax revenue and $33.7 per year in local and state tax revenue.

Hill said New Jersey workers lacked equity as former Gov. Chris Christie stopped the increases. He is more hopeful with Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ), who has been in office since January. The union supported Murphy.

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