Bill Addresses Income Inequality & Requires Prevailing Wages for Service Workers Struggling to Make Ends Meet
Legislation Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver and Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Eliana Pintor Marin, Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Tim Eustace sponsored to require prevailing wages be paid to all subcontracted transportation service workers at Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark Penn Station and the Hoboken Terminal was approved Thursday by the Assembly.
The sponsors said the legislation – “The Safe Transportation Jobs and Fair Employment Rules Act” – was another step in their ongoing effort to combat income inequality and boost wages, but also noted that low wages often lead to high employee turnover, creating safety concerns at transportation facilities.
“Airlines are making billions in profits while the workers who keep the industry running each and every day are struggling to make ends meet with little to no benefits,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “Sadly, many of these workers earning meager wages likely live in poverty, which is unacceptable and offensive. The time has come to right this wrong.”
The sponsors noted subcontracted Newark Airport workers make just $10.20 per hour, or about $22,000 per year. That’s less than the federal poverty level for a family of four. Many Newark airport workers make less than subcontracted workers at LaGuardia and JFK airports, even if they do the same job.
“This is all about fairness and income equality,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “The people who work these often difficult jobs to make our travel and commutes as easy as possible deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This bill would be a great step toward accomplishing that goal.”
“Our workers are not second-class citizens,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This bill will guarantee that thousands of low-wage sub-contracted workers at Newark Airport, Newark Penn Station and Hoboken Station get decent wages and meaningful benefits, as they rightly deserve. This bill is a long-time coming – and the right thing to do.”
“Newark Liberty is one of our largest employers, and the thousands of subcontracted workers at these facilities live near where they work,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “When these workers cannot make ends meet, the local economy suffers. If these facilities are truly going to be economic engines for this region, we need to ensure they’re providing good-paying jobs.”
“These subcontracted hardworking men and women serve millions of passengers every day and strive to make our lives easier,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen), chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “They need a living wage that enables them to provide for their families. This bill represents some long-awaited progress for these hardworking men and women.”
“Working families deserve livable wages,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “New Jersey is one of the most expensive states to live in. How is a family supposed to afford rent and other expenses on $10 an hour? We have to do right by these workers and provide equitable wages.”
“These workers are essential to our transportation systems, and deserve better,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This is not about extra perks; this is about fair and adequate compensation.”
The bill applies to subcontracted transportation center service workers at Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark Penn Station and the Hoboken Terminal that perform jobs such as escort services, cargo related and ramp services, in-terminal and in-station and passenger handling services, cleaning services and concession services.
Under the bill (A-4870), a subcontracted transportation center service worker who toils as a food service worker, skycap or redcap receiving tips would receive a cash wage of at least two-thirds of the wage rate that must be paid. Tipped skycaps, redcaps and food service workers would also receive the full amount of benefits and paid time off minimums.
The bill was approved 51-23-1 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.