Workers demand fair wages

By Bill Parry

Airport workers carried their fight for better wages and benefits directly to one of the contractors underpaying them.

Chanting, “No justice, no peace,” more than 200 of the contracted workers marched on the corporate headquarters of Aviation Safeguard, at 80-02 Queens Blvd., May 22 demanding that officials pay them the same wages paid to workers hired by the Port Authority.

“We work just as hard as officers and cleaners directly contracted by the Port Authority,” said security officer Michael Carey. “So why aren’t we earning wages and benefits on par with direct Port Authority subcontractors like Allied Barton?”

Before the protesters entered the headquarters for a sit-down in the lobby, Carey said, “They’re the security officers who guard the airport perimeter and they make $17.95 an hour and receive employer-paid family healthcare. Most of us were making minimum wage until the Port told the airlines to give us a raise, but there’s a big difference between $17.95 and $10.10.”

A spokesman for Aviation Safeguard politely refused to comment.

Three months ago, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye told the four major airlines using JFK and LaGuardia airports to give workers who were making less than $9 per hour an immediate $1 raise with a phase-in to $10.10. American Airlines and Delta Airlines have complied and have begun paying their workers the new rate. United and JetBlue have refused.

Last week, more than 4,000 cabin and terminal cleaners, baggage handlers and security guards turned in cards indicating they would like to join union SEIU 32BJ.

“Equal work deserves equal pay,” Carey said. “We demand wage and benefit parity now. We want Aviation Safeguard, and all other airline subcontractors, to work with the Port Authority to raise standards, including negotiating a fair contract on par with Port Authority contracts.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.