On June 26, 2014, in their largest rally yet, NYC area airport workers gathered outside of La Guardia to launch 100 days of action for justice: living wages, good benefits, paid sick and holiday leave (including MLK Day), respect and a union contract! The 100 days will count down towards the deadline of September 30, set by the Port Authority, for airlines and contractors to come up with a plan to raise wages and provide benefits to contract workers. Elected officials, civil rights and faith leaders joined, including US Representative Charles Rangel. Delegations of workers from Boston Logan and Philadelphia International International also came out to show their solidarity. 

Not So Fun Facts about United Airlines at Newark Airport

United Airlines and Its Contractors are Fostering Poverty in Newark

  • For the past several years, United has maintained a low-bid contracting system that has created thousands of poverty jobs at Newark Liberty International Airport.  About 3,700 men and women work for airline subcontractors at EWR, most of them for United subcontractors.
  • These workers generally are paid close to minimum wage and have no meaningful benefits, like paid time or affordable health insurance. 
  • American and Delta have agreed to the Port Authority’s new rules to give the lowest paid subcontracted workers in New York a $1 raise and make MLK Jr. Day a paid holiday.  But United has so far refused, leaving thousands of workers in Newark behind. 

We Have Helped United Grow Into a Big Part of Our Economy

  • Newark is United’s second largest hub in the world.   With 24.6 million passengers in 2013, United controlled over 70% of passenger traffic at EWR.  United also ranked first for total combined passengers amongst all airlines operating at the three largest NY and NJ airports.
  • United reported $1.084 billion in overall profit in 2013, excluding special charges, on revenues of $38.3 billion.  The profits (excluding special charges) were an 84 percent improvement from the previous year. 
  • United’s footprint in Newark is massive.  Besides its over 5,000 badged employees at the airport, and with a majority of the about 3,700 badged employees of subcontractors servicing United, it claims that it has 13,000 jobs in Newark, making it one of the largest employers in the state. 
  • The Port Authority of NY and NJ has invested over $4.2 billion at EWR, and is planning to invest $2.2 billion more in the next 20 years.
  • Since 1998, the NJ Economic Development Authority has issued at least $978.5 million in tax-exempt bonds for Continental and United to design and build facilities and equipment at EWR.
  • United has received two Business Incentive Employment Program grants from the state of New Jersey in 1997 and 2000, for an estimated total of $2.09 million.   

But our communities also need good jobs, and it is time for United to do its part

  • With minimum wages of $8.25, and assuming a 40-hour workweek, the annual income of many airport workers is 28% lower than the federal poverty level for a family of four.
  • A large majority of the subcontracted airport workers live in the impoverished areas surrounding the airport, especially in Newark. 
  • According to 2012 U.S. Census figures, 28% of the population of Newark lives under poverty, and so do 38.9% of children in the city.  Using a more realistic measure of poverty, given the high costs of living in Newark, an estimated 53% of the population in Newark lives in poverty.
  • Minorities are bearing the brunt of the low standards: 94% of the subcontracted workers at EWR are minorities (60% African-American, 27% Latino, and 7% Asian/Pacific Islander). 
  • United needs to RESPECT NEW JERSEY, and immediately begin to work with its contractors to comply with the Port Authority’s rules, give workers a raise and improve standards in Newark.

An Open Letter to United

imageDear United Continental Holdings:

We write to urge you to work with your subcontractors at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)—our employers—to implement the raise and benefit standards recently called for by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ).

We provide cabin cleaning, security, wheelchair and skycap services for United Airlines at EWR yet many of us struggle to pay our bills and raise our families on the poverty wages United subcontractors, like PrimeFlight, AirServ and Gateway Group One, pay us.

In April 2014, the PANYNJ passed a resolution calling on the major carriers operating at John F. Kennedy International (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA), and Newark Liberty International Airports to give an immediate one dollar raise to all subcontracted workers making less than $9 an hour and to make Martin Luther King Day 2014 a paid holiday.

Delta and American Airlines agreed to comply with the Port directive and hundreds of workers at JFK and LGA have received raises but thousands more have been left behind, including approximately 4,000 subcontracted workers at Newark Liberty International Airport, the vast majority of whom work hard everyday keeping United Airlines’ operations running safely and efficiently.

We work just as hard as other subcontracted airport workers and deserve a dignified wage with benefits that shows respect for the work we do for your company.

Sincerely,
Irwin Carbajal
América Hernández
Zayid Muhammad

image

Zayid Muhammad
Skycap, Gateway ($2.13 per hour plus tips)

“I would be able to pay my bills.”

imageZayid Muhammad has been a skycap for Gateway, the largest United subcontractor at Newark Liberty International Airport, since January 2006. Zayid is very proud of the work he does but struggles to pay his rent and raise his 10-year old daughter as a single parent on the low wages Gateway pays him. Because his employer does not provide him with affordable healthcare, he relies on charity care to treat his medical needs. Zayid dreams of how his life would improve if he got a decent wage and benefits.

 

América Hernández
Cabin Cleaner, PrimeFlight ($8.25 per hour)

“My family and I receive health assistance and food stamps to get by, otherwise it would be a real hardship.”

imageAmérica Hernández, currently employed as a cabin cleaner for PrimeFlight, has worked at Newark Liberty International Airport for seven years. Making the state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour and with no meaningful benefits, América and her family struggle to make ends meet every month. With three kids, América is thankful for Medicaid and food stamps, because she does not know what they would do without them.

 

Irwin Carbajal
Cabin Cleaner, PrimeFlight ($8.25 per hour)

“I would like to make more money so I can help my family in Peru and be able, at some point, to resume my studies. We work very hard and we deserve more.”

imageIrwin Carbajal is a cabin cleaner servicing United Airlines aircraft at Newark Liberty International Airport. He immigrated to the United States two years ago at age 21. Like many new immigrants, Irwin came with dreams of being able to support his family at home while building a better future for himself here. However, accomplishing his dreams on minimum wage has proven difficult. Irwin and his father are currently living with his uncle because they cannot afford to pay rent on their own and his low wages make it impossible for him to help his family in Peru.

 

In 2014, starting with an MLK Day action, NYC area airport workers have been rising up and making progress. In May, thousands chose 32BJ as their union. and in June, the Port Authority mandated that workers at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark who make $9 or less per hour get a $1 raise. On June 26, 12 NOON at La Guardia Aiport we gather for our largest action ever to demand what we deserve: a living wage, healthcare, paid sick and vacation days, dignity on the job and a union contract!

On Tuesday June 10, PHL airport workers and supporters gathered at Philadelphia City Hall outside the offices of Mayor Michael Nutter to demand he enforce the living wage provision for city subcontracted workers, passed by an overwhelming majority of voters on May 20.   

FLL Mothers Deliver Broward County Commissioners Mother’s Day Flowers & Message

This afternoon, Broward County Commissioners are each receiving a flower along with profiles of working mothers and cards that read: “As you celebrate Mother’s Day, please consider the mothers who work tirelessly to assist passengers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and keep FLL running smooth. All we want for Mother’s Day is to be better able to provide for our families. We hope that you will keep mothers’ best interests to heart this session.”

Over 1,500 airline-contracted workers at FLL struggle on as little as $4.91 per hour if working in a “tipped” position and lack health insurance and paid sick time. FLL’s baggage handlers, sky caps, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners, ramp workers, passenger assistance representatives, check-point screeners, fuelers, and security officers are excluded from the airport’s living wage law.

Manouse Emmanuel has been a Bags-employed wheelchair attendant at FLL for 13 years and earns the state’s minimum wage of $7.93 per hour. She’s also a mother of two and a proud grandmother of twins, supporting her daughter through college with help of financial aid. Emmanuel often must endure a three-hour bus ride to reach her job but always puts others first. For example, she helped an airline customer whom suffered a heart attack while waiting to board the plane.

At $5.50 per hour, Superior-employed wheelchair attendant, Charmaine Eccleston must live with her stepmother and daughter, helping to pay rent for all three generations. Because this is her only job, Eccleston has signed up for food stamps and hasn’t been able to start paying for costly hospital bills that set her further back into debt. As a single mother, she’s now trying to put her daughter through college with the help of financial aid.

An estimated 37 percent of the families of airport cleaning and baggage workers receive Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or some combination. Nationwide, this amounts to over $110 million in spending in public assistance for airport workers and their families.

For more than two years, FLL service workers have taken to the streets and met with the Commission to try and improve industry and job standards that allow them to live with dignity.

On April 4, 2014, in the spirit of great Civil Rights marches, New York area airport workers commemorated the 46th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination with a 10 mile walk from JFK to La Guardia Airport. They are demanding the right to have a union, fair pay and benefits and respect on the job.