Airport service workers rally at NY and NJ airports, demand higher wages and better benefits

A thousand airport services workers rallied at JFK today, calling on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to make changes on their behalf.
Courtesy of 32BJ SEIU

More than 1,000 airport service workers from JFK and LaGuardia airports, represented by the 32BJ SEIU union, rallied at noon earlier today at JFK’s Terminal 8.

The workers are demanding higher wages and improved health and leave benefits from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. At the same time, another 500 workers gathered at Newark International Airport to call for better working conditions. These rallies occur as contracts for over 10,000 32BJ SEIU workers are poised to expire on June 30.

At JFK’s Terminal 8, the New York airport service workers called for their minimum wage to be increased from $19 to $25 an hour by 2030. They are also seeking health care and paid leave benefits on par with their counterparts in New Jersey. The workers emphasized the critical nature of their roles in maintaining safety and cleanliness at JFK and LaGuardia, noting that these airports serve tens of millions of travelers annually and are among the busiest aviation hubs in the country.

Airport workers rally at JFK T8 departures today, calling for better wages, healthcare and benefits. Photo provided by 32BJ SEIU

Vladimir Clairjeune, JFK wheelchair attendant and 32BJ SEIU member said that workers deserve a fair wage that reflects the contributions they make to one of the nation’s biggest transit hubs. “$19 per hour just doesn’t cut it anymore. As a working New Yorker trying to provide for my family, I struggle constantly to keep up with rent, groceries, car payments and everything else. Airport workers need and deserve a wage that lets us provide for our families,” he said. 

The airport workers argue that their services have not been fairly compensated, calling out airlines such as American, Delta and United for profiting billions of dollars. Workers pointed out that American Airlines CEO Robert Isom had a pay package of $31.4 million in 2023—roughly $15,000 an hour. Isom’s salary is reportedly 464 times the salary of the airline’s median employees, as workers point out that their wages have not seen significant change within the last 20 years. 

Rob Hill, Executive Vice President of 32BJ SEIU, echoed the workers’ views, adding that essential workers on the ground deserve better.  “You don’t have to look to the sky to see the hard work that keeps our airports safe, clean and an international hub for tourism and travel,” he said. “From a family-sustaining minimum wage to affordable and equal healthcare to meaningful paid time off, our airport workers deserve to be fairly compensated for their exceptional service.” Hill called on the Port Authority to “step in and step up” to ensure workers receive fair wages and benefits. 

The rallies in New York and New Jersey occurred on the same day as an airport workers’ rally at Miami International Airport, the same week as an American Airlines shareholders meeting, and on the heels of a strike by airport workers at Charlotte Airport.