Union Says Airlines Broke Promises To Create 'Good Jobs' At JFK

According to the Service Employees International Union, airlines and terminal operators broke promises to create good jobs at the John F. Kennedy International Airport while getting nearly $3 billion for the expansion of the airport's Terminal 4 and other improvements since 2002.

Airport service workers and Southeast Queens residents rallied at the airport on May 24 in protest. Dozens of low-wage airport workers held an alternative opening of Terminal 4 as dignitaries joined Delta Air Lines at a grand opening celebration of the newly expanded JFK's Terminal 4.

Friday's mock inauguration in the parking lot outside Terminal 4 was hardly celebratory. The workers said, regardless of the celebration going on inside, it was just another day working at one of the nation's largest airports for low wages.

Over 8,000 workers are employed by 35 different contractors at JFK to provide above and below-wing services like cabin cleaning, terminal security, baggage handling, wheelchair assistance, and sky cap services.

Terminal 3, Delta's former main home at JFK, is deemed obsolete and is now slated for the wrecking ball.

According to the union, Delta Air Lines got tax-free financing on $210 million from the New York City Industrial Development Agency in April for final work on Terminal 4's expansion and improvements. This was on top of the $800 million bond floated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for JFK on Delta's behalf to begin the expansion in 2010, the union said.

Despite these public investments in JFK Airport, thousands of low-wage subcontracted service workers struggle to get by on wages as low as $8 per hour in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Workers say they often have to rely on food stamps or eat at food pantries, get health care from Medicaid, Section 8 housing assistance and other public subsidies to make ends meet despite working full time and sometimes two jobs at the airport.

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