Fast food workers aren't the only ones fighting for a living wage; airline workers, fed up with dreadfully low pay and no benefits, have been petitioning the Port Authority to improve conditions, beginning with granting them Martin Luther King Day as a paid day off.
Like minimum-wage earning fast food workers, airline workers—bag haulers, cabin cleaners and the like—often make at or near $7.25-an-hour. Many workers are not employed directly by the airline companies, but are hired by private contractors who are able to deny them paid time-off, health insurance, raises and fair wages. "My life is not easy but they tell me there are a thousand out there who would take my job," Norman Echeverri, who pushes wheelchair-bound passengers at La Guardia Airport for $6.50-an-hour, told the Times. “My story, it is the story of a lot of people who work here.”
Now, workers and union supporters are trying to change things, and yesterday they rallied outside Port Authority headquarters demanding help. "I make $8.50 an hour and I’m a 47-year-old man with three kids,” a JFK worker told the Daily News. “Do the math. I can’t support my family on that salary." They're also demanding the PA give workers Martin Luther King Day off, as outlined in a 2,000-signature petition from December; if the PA doesn't comply, organizers and elected officials are threatening to "engage in civil disobedience," according to a press release from the 32BJ union.
Organizers are hoping for a workers' revamp similar to that of San Francisco International Airport, which mandated a $12.93 per hour minimum wage complete with 12 paid days off per year and health coverage over a decade ago. Until then, though, the vendors are free to handle their employees at will, with it doesn't look like workers get much help from the airlines themselves. As one United spokeswoman told the Times: "Our role at United is to make sure that vendors follow all applicable laws. I can’t speak to their cost structure and works rules. I won’t do that."
Port Authority officials have not yet responded to requests for comment.