“We blame Christie”: Airport workers decry unequal treatment

New $10.10 wage for thousands of NYC airport workers excludes Newark, and civil disobedience could be ahead

Topics: Chris Christie, Airport, Workers, Labor, Unions, Andrew Cuomo, SEIU, Poverty, , ,

"We blame Christie": Airport workers decry unequal treatmentChris Christie (Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

Low-wage Newark airport workers are calling out Chris Christie after being excluded from a major wage hike spurred by the Port Authority.

“We blame Christie for this …” airplane cleaner Ulysses Grant told Salon. “He’s ignorant … He just wants to keep everybody in the same rut, in the same bad situation.” After 10 years working at the airport, Grant said the private contractor PrimeFlight pays him the state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. A Christie spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Grant is one of an estimated 12,000 low-wage contracted workers employed among the three big New York-area airports. Following a multi-year, union-backed campaign – including a Martin Luther King Day civil disobedience protest in which politicians and clergy were arrested – the Port Authority last week announced it would order contractors to phase in a $10.10 wage and a paid MLK holiday for employees. But the order covers only those workers at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports, not their counterparts at nearby Newark International.

Hector Figueroa, president of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, chalked that divide up to a “very dysfunctional” dynamic at the Port Authority, in which Christie’s appointees and those of his New York counterpart Andrew Cuomo each have “a very different vision of what the port should stand for.” If Christie chose to, argued Figueroa, he could “totally” ensure that the directive was extended to New Jersey as well.  “It is unfair to these workers,” he charged, “that he remains silent or indifferent.”

The New York Daily News reported that “sources said Christie was the reason Newark Airport workers are getting the shaft,” and quoted an unnamed Cuomo administration official saying New Jersey officials “don’t want to do it. And we’re not going to let that fact stop us from doing it on our side.” Asked about that account, Figueroa said, “So far the actions seem to be consistent with that view.”

Christie-appointed Port Authority deputy executive director Deborah Gramiccioni told the Daily News that the wage hike directive “raises complex labor, business and legal issues that our airlines, their business partners and employees are facing, and we need to consider the significant financial and operational impacts at our airports.” Figueroa countered that, given that “the vast majority” of Newark airport workers live nearby, “every dollar that goes into their pocket will be spent in their communities, and will contribute back to the economy.”

You Might Also Like

“To even insinuate that a competitive model for the airlines in our tri-state area should be to keep these workers in poverty is un-American, and it’s irresponsible,” argued Figueroa. “So we think that the governor of New Jersey should, above all, take action on this.” Given the controversy over Christie Port Authority appointees’ role in allegedly retaliatory lane closures, suggested Figueroa, “this is a great opportunity for him.” While pushing to continue raising standards at New York airports, the union president promised, “we are going to redouble our efforts to make sure that Newark is not left behind and treated unequally.” Asked if that would include civil disobedience in New Jersey, Figueroa said it “would be one vehicle” available.

$10.10 is also the rate proposed by congressional Democrats for a new federal minimum wage, and the rate President Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he would direct some federal contractors to pay employees under future contracts.

“I’m proud for” the New York workers, said Grant. But “we deserve it just like they deserve it.” He told Salon a raise to $10.10 would allow him to “buy my grandkids something, and pay some bills on time.”

Noting that the New Jersey governor had opposed the voter-approved wage hike that brought his pay up from $7.25, Grant charged, “Christie doesn’t support the working class people.” He said the lesson of the LaGuardia and JFK victories was clear: “When they don’t want to give it to us, we have to go out there and get it. Let people know we aren’t playing.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...