NEW YORK (Tuesday December 8, 2015)— Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Exploited Worker Task Force, a first-of-its-kind statewide Task Force to root out worker exploitation issues in multiple industries, held a transit workers hearing today. Airport workers at the event testified about rampant wage theft and health and safety issues they face at work.
“This was a great first step to ensuring that exploited airport workers receive the help they need to properly enforce standards and lift expectations at the airports,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ, which has been helping airport workers to organize.
Baggage handlers, sky caps, airplane cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, security officers and airport terminal cleaners service the multi-billion dollar airport industry while making just $10.10 an hour. With few to no benefits and inadequate paid leave they are struggling to survive. In addition to being paid poverty wages, airport workers also face wage theft and health and safety issues. These issues were at the center of the hearing on Tuesday.
“I was able to testify about the terribly unsafe working conditions that me and my coworkers are forced into every day,” said Damaso Mejia, an Ultimate Aircraft cleaner at JFK airport who described a workplace where he is not given adequate training, where workers using unmarked chemicals suffer from skin rashes and where he himself has been pricked by a needle through flimsy company gloves.
“Many people also don’t know about the wage theft that happens at the airports. The issues pile up and make it hard for us to provide for our families and ourselves. I hope the Governor will help,” said Norman Echavari, a Primeflight Wheelchair attendant at LaGuardia Airport who testified about a series of wage theft issues from his employer.
This hearing concludes a series of fact finding hearings for exploited workers in the city. Now the task force will be able to make recommendations directly to the Governor that could directly change the conditions that airport workers like Damaso and Norman face.