New York Airport Workers On Track for $19 Minimum Wage

New York's JFK Airport. (Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Workers at the airports serving New York City could soon be earning $19 an hour — the highest targeted minimum wage set by a public agency in the U.S.

The pay increase is expected to be approved this week by the commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York Times reports. The increase, which would take effect over the next five years, would “go well beyond the $15 minimum hourly wage that several cities around the country have enacted,” according to the paper.

“This is going to be the highest targeted minimum wage anywhere in the country,” Hector J. Figueroa, president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which represents many of the workers, told the paper. “That’s a significant breakthrough.”

The Port Authority resolution calls for the minimum to rise on Nov. 1 of this year to $13.60 an hour for workers at the La Guardia Airport and Kennedy International Airport in New York City and $12.45 an hour for workers at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Annual increases will follow until workers earn $19 an hour.

Other airports across the country are upping their employees wages as well, as Next City has covered. The public entities overseeing them hope that by increasing workers’ earnings, many of the headline-grabbing problems that have dominated the news cycle over the last year can be avoided.

From the Times:

A vote on the proposal to raise the minimum for airport workers was postponed for several months after airlines challenged the Port Authority’s power to mandate pay for private companies.

In response, the agency produced a comprehensive “analysis and justification” that argued that the airports were plagued by high turnover that threatened to make the airports less safe and degrade the services provided to travelers. It cited the benefits other airports had realized after raising their minimum wages.

“Lifting airport-workers’ wages is now a tried and tested tool, widely used for responding to a recurring set of serious problems at airports around the United States — problems that now beset the Port Authority’s airports, too,” the document stated.

Workers at Denver International Airport may also see significant wage gains if a ballot measure passes next year. They face similar issues, however, because they aren’t all employed by one entity. Some are employees of the city, some work for the federal government and some are employed by specific airlines.

Still, airports appear to be a fertile group in what the movement formerly known as the battle for $15 — a movement that’s evolved to include fair workweek legislation and paid sick leave initiatives. As Next City has covered, 15 airports across the U.S. already have airport-specific minimum wages.

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