NJ, NY Airport Workers Demand $25 Per Hour, May ‘Walk Off Jobs’

NEW JERSEY — When you take a flight out of Newark Airport in New Jersey, there’s a good chance that someone like Tanjanina Reynolds is helping to get your plane ready for takeoff. And as a single mom living in Newark, she’s sure of one thing: $19 an hour isn’t cutting the mustard these days.

On Thursday – three days before their current work contract expires – hundreds of unionized airport workers affiliated with 32BJ SEIU rallied at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s offices on Montgomery Street in Jersey City.

The workers are pushing for a new contract at three facilities run by the Port Authority: Newark Airport, JFK Airport and LaGuardia Airport. Their current agreement expires on June 30.

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“As a cabin lead, I am in charge of a team that ensures airplanes are safe, clean, and ready for takeoff,” said Reynolds, a 32BJ SEIU member. “It is because of my coworkers and I that flights at Newark Airport stay on schedule and depart on time.”

“We deserve a wage that reflects the essential work we do,” she insisted.

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Reynolds and other union members plan to deliver nearly 2,000 postcards to the board, each featuring a hand-written message from an airport worker pleading their case.

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And if they don’t get what they’re asking for, it could mean summer travel disruptions as more than 10,000 members of 32BJ SEIU “walk off their jobs,” their union warned – including security officers, cleaners, baggage and cargo handlers, and wheelchair agents.

One of their biggest demands? Raising the minimum wage at the airports to $25 an hour.

Nearly six years ago, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved a plan to raise the minimum wage at its airports to $19 an hour – the highest in the nation at the time. The climb ended in 2023 when the minimum wage reached $19.

It wasn’t only union members who benefitted; the move impacted about 40,000 workers at Newark, JFK and LaGuardia airports.

Now, with rent and housing costs skyrocketing across the Tri-State area, it’s time to hike the minimum wage again, union leaders say.

Workers pointed out that a “record-breaking surge” of passengers is expected to pass through the region’s airports this summer. According to the Port Authority, last month was their busiest May ever, with roughly 13 million travelers passing through their gates.

New monthly passenger records have now been set across seven of the last 12 months, the agency noted Friday.

Patch reached out to the Port Authority to see if it is considering a wage hike to $25. We received the following reply:

“The Port Authority has taken a leadership role in ensuring that airport workers at JFK International, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports are among the highest paid in the nation. The Port Authority’s action to expand the minimum wage policy in 2018 have culminated in a $19/hour wage for tens of thousands of airport workers beginning in September 2023.”

However, it isn’t only a wage hike that’s needed, workers say.

The union is also calling for “parity” between the three airports. Though they perform similar work, New Jersey and New York airport workers have different health and paid leave benefits, the union says.

“My quality of life depends on having 100 percent employer-paid health care,” said Noyoyltzin De Jesus, a terminal cleaner at JFK Airport.

“I depend on medication that costs almost $4,000 every three months,” De Jesus said. “Without my health care benefits, it would be impossible to pay for my medication.”

“We need the Port Authority to continue its role as a leader by increasing wages and mandating the same health care, vacation and holiday policy for all airport workers that our counterparts in New Jersey have,” De Jesus added.

The drive for $25 has also picked up support from another large labor union, Unite Here Local 100.

“Travelers can’t have a high-quality experience in their air without the services our members and other airport workers provide on the ground,” secretary-treasurer Sussie Lozada said.

“Our workers deserve fair wages and benefits because no one should be working in poverty,” Lozada urged. “We stand in solidarity with our members and all airport workers to demand essential rights for essential workers.”


As local airports get busier and busier, the airlines that are making huge profits need to also dig deeper into their coffers in the name of fairness, advocates urge.

The difference in pay between executives and other airport workers is staggering, 32BJ SEIU spokespeople recently said:

“With tens of millions of travelers passing through Newark International Airport annually – making them the busiest aviation hub in the country – the workers who maintain the safety and cleanliness of these facilities play an essential role in our tourism and travel industry. However, their service has not been fairly compensated even as airlines like American, Delta and United rake in multi-billion-dollar profits. American Airlines CEO Robert Isom, for example, had a pay package of $31.4 million in 2023, roughly $15,000 an hour compared to the $19 an hour that airport workers at JFK, LGA and EWR are paid.”

“In other words, he was paid 789 times the salary of airport service workers in the Tri-State area,” the union said.

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