NEWARK, N.J. — Hundreds of airport workers marched on Martin Luther King Day to demand higher wages.
They flooded terminals B and C, as well as a roadway in between the terminals, causing some temporary traffic delays at the airport. Some of the workers said they earn as little as $10 per hour, without benefits or vacation time.
“It's hard to support your family,” said one man.
SEIU 32BJ organized the rally. The Port Authority Police blocked off traffic to make way for the march. The workers who participated are among those who clean the airport; restock food and beverage carts on board the planes; and who push passengers in need of a wheelchair from check in to the gate.
The 40,000 contracted airport employees who work at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark are demanding $15 per hour in wages.
"I work 80 hours in a 40-hour work week to pay my rent every month. We need these wages,” said Angie Persons.
Workers from LaGuardia and JFK Airports were bussed in to rally alongside Newark Airport workers. In New York, the minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour at the end of this year.
The march came a day before Phil Murphy will be sworn in as the new governor of New Jersey. He has vowed to raise the state’s minimum wage.
“Now that we have a new governor in New Jersey on our side, we have a real opportunity for us to win better jobs and benefits,” said Millie Perez, a terminal cleaner at Newark Airport. “I’m proud to be marching with our brothers and sisters at the airport as a celebration of Dr. King’s legacy. I hope the Port Authority hears our call and takes a stand for good airport jobs.”
Murphy did not attend today’s rally, but he did release a statement: “I am proud to stand with all workers who demand a stronger and fairer New Jersey economy that works for every family. Today, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of fighting for justice – a legacy kept alive by airport workers fighting for a fair wage. Tomorrow, and together, we will turn the page and begin anew the work to strengthen our communities and our economy.”