32BJ endorses Richards in Queens borough president race, rallies at JFK for affordable healthcare

Photo by Max Parrott/QNS

Councilman Donovan Richards was endorsed by 32BJ in the race for Queens borough president.

The powerful property service workers union represents more than 80,000 workers in the metropolitan area.

“In his time on the City Council, Donovan Richards has been a fierce advocate for working people in New York City,” 32BJ President Kyle Bragg said. “He championed and helped pass the fair workweek laws to raise standards and improve jobs for fast food workers. Richards has tirelessly advocated for airport workers rights, joining 32BJ in the fight for airport jobs with dignity and respect.”

Bragg added that Richards has also brought thousands of units of affordable housing and good, family-sustaining jobs to his district in southeast Queens.

“In addition, he has been a strong leader in the movement for criminal justice reforms and has fought to stop the cycle of incarceration that has devastated black and brown communities in our city,” Bragg said. “Richards knows firsthand the struggles 32BJ members and low-wage workers in Queens face every day.”

Richards also received the endorsement of DC 37, Local 372 and the United Federation of Teachers in recent weeks. The special election for Queens borough president will take place on March 24.

“The members of 32BJ are some of the hardest workers in our city, and I thank them for supporting my campaign,” Richards said. “I’m proud to have stood with them on the front lines with airport workers to fight back against sick day retaliation and to ensure they are paid a fair wage. As borough president, I’ll continue to work with them to ensure more good paying, union jobs choose to call Queens home.”

Meanwhile, nearly 500 32BJ members rallied at JFK airport to support airport workers. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, they gathered in a large prayer circle inside Terminal 8.

“We just came from inside Terminal 8 where we prayed for healthcare,” Bragg said. “Why? Because our journey to justice is not yet complete. We are close but we are not there yet. We won’t get there until we win quality, affordable healthcare.”

The rally included music from gospel singers, a choir and drum section and speeches from elected officials from across the city supporting the workers’ struggle for adequate protections and good working conditions. Donna Hampton, a security officer at JFK, recalled for the audience the near-decade-long campaign airport workers have fought to win respect, dignity, economic and social justice, as well as union protection.

“But, as long as there are brothers and sisters at New York airports yearning for the protection of a union contract and they are being stopped, then we’re all back where we were the day our movement started,” Hampton said. “I want all my non-union brothers and sisters to have the same protections I have and for them to be with me in the fight to win those final benefits for health insurance.”

JFK sits in Richards’ district, and he offered his support for those who rallied.

“On this day that we honor the memory of Dr. King, we must be mindful of his warning that ‘of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane,’” Richards said. “These hard-working New Yorkers deserve quality, affordable health insurance.”

32BJ SEIU has made passage of the Healthy Terminals Act in New York and New Jersey its 2020 legislative priority. The law would require passenger services contractors hired by airline carriers to provide their employees with a benefits supplement they can use to acquire the healthcare they need.

“Irresponsible contractors have doubled down on the poor treatment of workers and are pushing anti-union tactics designed to limit benefits,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said. “New York must put a stop to this abuse, and pass the Healthy Terminals Act to establish higher minimum standards for pay and benefits and protect the workers.”