Workers at the three airpots that serve New York City may soon be earning significantly different wages due to differing minimum wage laws in New York and New Jersey, the New York Times has found.
This past April, Governor Cuomo signed a bill raising the statewide minimum wage over the next five years. The new law stipulates that businesses in New York City are required to pay their employees a minimum wage of $15 an hour by 2018. (Businesses in Westchester have until 2021 to do so, and those upstate have to raise their minimum wage to $12.50 an hour by 2020.)
However, in August, Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill that would have raised New Jersey's minimum wage to $15 an hour over the course of five years, calling it a "really radical increase" that "would trigger an escalation of wages that will make doing business in New Jersey nearly unaffordable."
"All of this sounds great, raising the minimum wage, when you're spending someone else's money," Christie said in response to the veto.
Hence the problem: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the main three NYC airports located in Newark and Queens, currently has a minimum wage of $10.10/hour, and this week it will vote on whether or not to adopt a higher minimum wage for its workers in New York than for those who work across the Hudson River. According to the Times, there are two options on the table: the authority's twelve commissioners will either vote to reset the higher wage for employees in both states; or they'll decide to pay each respective state's minimum wage, unless it is lower than the current hourly wage of $10.10 paid to Port Authority employees. (New Jersey's minimum wage is currently $8.38 an hour).
According to the Times, at least half of New Jersey's six Port Authority commissioners would have to vote in favor of the first option for it to pass. John Degnan, the board's chairman (appointed by Christie), has previously expressed his reluctance for such a large wage hike.
Four months before Cuomo signed New York's minimum wage bill into law, hundreds of airport employees protested the Port Authority's low wages in LaGuardia's Terminal B. Several were arrested during the protest. In November 2015, employees at JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports went on strike in a push for higher wages, and during the 2015 protests, some JFK employees who worked for subcontractors claimed they were being paid as little as $6.75 per hour.
Democratic leaders in New Jersey are reportedly planning to introduce an amendment to the state's Constitution that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. Unless New Jersey's minimum wage surpasses $10.10 an hour by 2018, Port Authority workers in NYC will be earning nearly 33 percent more than their counterparts in New Jersey.