JFK and LaGuardia Airport workers demand passage of legislation for quality healthcare as coronavirus concerns widen

File photo by Carlotta Mohamed/QNS

“Better healthcare now” was the message chanted by dozens of airport workers from JFK and LaGuardia Airport Wednesday in Jamaica, who urgently called on the state to pass legislation that would give New York airport workers immediate access to quality affordable health care as the city confirms two cases of coronavirus. 

City Councilman Donovan Richards joined the airport workers and 32BJ SEIU union members and officers at 86-11 Lefferts Blvd. to push for the passage of the Healthy Terminals Act, sponsored by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and State Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman. 

The legislation will require employers at New York airports to compensate workers, including subcontracted passenger services workers, a $4.54 benefits supplement that workers can use to acquire insurance. 

“Our concerns are the same concerns that all New Yorkers have,” said Vladimir Clairjeune, a passenger service representative at JFK Airport. “We want to stay healthy for ourselves and our families, which is why we’re calling on the Senate and State to support the Healthy Terminals Act. The people on the front lines should not be thought about last.” 

According to Clairjeune, who has worked at JFK Airport for the past 10 years, they’re taking precaution following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, such as washing their hands with soap and warm water. 

“Healthcare is a human right and while folks focus on the coronavirus, we want our airport workers to be safe,” Richards said. “When our workers don’t have healthcare, that’s a shame. That says we don’t care about the people who make this country run, and when you look at who works at our airports and who’s running it, it’s communities of color primarily.”

“If one of these workers were impacted by coronavirus without healthcare their lives are destroyed,” Richards added. “Think about the impact on their families — not being able to afford housing, unable to afford a meal, unable to send their children to school because they don’t have the money. We’re talking about treating humans with dignity and respect.” 

Following the meeting, the airport workers — which include wheelchair attendants, security, cleaners and passenger service representatives — participated in a training session on how to best protect themselves and passengers from the coronavirus. 

The training session is led by the New York Committee for Occupational Health and Safety (NYCOSH), a nonprofit membership organization with more than 40 years of experience providing training, education, and advocacy on workplace health and safety issues. 

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