The Healthy Terminals Act of New Jersey and New York ensures covered airport workers will be paid no less than the Prevailing Wage and be entitled to a standard benefits supplement of $4.54 per hour.
Kevin Brown, Executive Vice President and the New Jersey State Director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how the SEIU recently used the Healthy Terminals Act to secure higher wages, as well and healthcare benefits with no monthly co-premiums, for airport workers.
Politics becomes a leverage tool for workers’ rights
The three-year contract covers 12,000 workers across JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports. These employees previously worked for minimum wage and had few benefits, Brown said. The SEIU successfully won a no-monthly co-premium healthcare package and a wage increase to $17 per hour, which will expand $1 per year to $19 by the third year of the contract.
The success of this contract was tied to SEIU members efforts to get the Healthy Terminal Acts passed in New York and New Jersey, Brown said. Once those laws were passed, airport management had little choice but to go along with the higher pay and no monthly co-premium healthcare.
The new contract also includes protections against discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles associated with racial, ethnic or cultural identities such as braids, dreadlocks or other styles. It also preserves Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday.
The contract was negotiated for three months and averted a strike.
Union plans similar tactics at airports across the country
A similar Healthy Terminals Act has passed in Philadelphia, and the SEIU will use that law to secure higher wages and free to low cost healthcare for those workers too. Brown expects similar laws to pass in cities across the nation.
Airport workers interact daily with the public, making it important to ensure these workers have access to healthcare. Providing workers with affordable healthcare is a matter of maintaining public health, he added.