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Airport Workers Rally for “Healthy Terminals”

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Workers rallied at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when the Healthy Terminals Bill was passed in July. (Photo: 32BJ SEIU)
Workers rallied at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when the Healthy Terminals Bill was passed in July. (Photo: 32BJ SEIU)
November 17, 2020

NEW YORK -- "Give Thanks, give health care" - that's the message airport workers will deliver to Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a rally today at noon at LaGuardia Airport.

In July, New York lawmakers passed the Healthy Terminals Act, a bill supporters say would provide some 25,000 terminal cleaners, baggage handlers, security officers and other service workers at New York airports access to quality, affordable health insurance. But the governor still hasn't signed the bill.

And according to Rob Hill, vice president of SEIU local 32BJ, despite being urged to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many people will travel for the holidays.

"We know that travel is going to pick up at the same time the pandemic is picking up again," Hill said. "And these workers are still being asked to work in close quarters inside without health care. And that's got to get fixed."

Opponents of the bill say it actually could eliminate jobs by raising costs for airlines already facing huge economic losses due to the pandemic.

But Hill pointed out the airlines got $50 billion in federal relief through the CARES Act and could get more in a second relief package. And without the Healthy Terminals Act, he said, many frontline airport workers won't have access to health care.

"To the extent employers offer some health care, it's usually something that has a copay or it's out of reach for what these workers can afford, and so they generally don't have it," he said.

The bill would require airline subcontractors to pay a benefits supplement of $4.54-an-hour so workers can acquire quality health insurance.

Hill noted workers at other airports get similar benefits. And he contends that, if it is left up to employers, the problem of inadequate health care will not be addressed.

"The bottom line is, the only way they're going to have decent health care is if it gets mandated," he said. "And there are other cases - LAX airport and San Francisco airport - where they mandate this same kind of thing. So, it's something that's been done before that should be done here in New York City."

Disclosure: 32BJ SEIU contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Immigrant Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY