Airport Workers Demand Higher Pay

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

Airport workers made their message loud and clear last week: they want to be paid a living wage.

To make sure they got their point across, hundreds of workers from both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports marched into the headquarters of Aviation Safeguard, a contractor who hires airline workers, and delivered a letter demanding better pay.

Airport workers gathered last week to protest low wages. Photo by Luis Gronda

Airport workers gathered last week to protest low wages. Photo by Luis Gronda

Last Wednesday, the Port Authority board unanimously voted to raise wages for workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports. This allows the agency to change current agreements with airline companies to raise their salary by $1 per hour and to change the wage to $10.10 by the end of next year.

Workers that are part of SEIU 32BJ, the local union that represents airport workers, staged a protest throughout May so that companies like Aviation Safeguard will comply with the new policy.

At last Thursday’s protest in Kew Gardens, a large group of workers made a surprise visit to Aviation’s Queens office to deliver the letter. Chants of “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” echoed through the lobby of 80-02 Kew Gardens Road.

They were immediately met by the building’s security guards, who demanded that they leave and take their protest outside. There was no violence at this protest, but the guards were emphatic that the group would not be going up to Aviation’s offices and asked them to leave repeatedly.

Across the street from the building, airport workers gathered in a circle to continue their protest. They expressed their dismay for their current salary situation.

Michael Maragh, a LaGuardia Airport employee at Terminal B, said people in other states make a good salary working at an airport, and the same needs to happen in New York.

“It’s impossible. Luckily, my wife is also working. I need a proper wage,” said Maregh, who makes $8 an hour working 40 hours a week. “Even at $15-per-hour, we cannot stop there. Nobody at the airport should be working under $20-per-hour.”

Juan Chapman, who is a security guard at LaGuardia, said they have been airport employees for many years and they have to remain committed to protesting for a higher salary.

“A right is not something someone should give to us, a right is something that nobody can take away,” he said in Spanish. “There is no employer that has the right to condemn our families to a life of poverty.”

Aviation Safeguard did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.