Queens, NY – Unprotected airport workers have fought for more than a year for access to affordable healthcare — and as of Wednesday, they now have enough support from the New York Legislature to pass a bill that will achieve their goals.
All that is left for the Healthy Terminals Act to become a reality is for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill.
“Thousands of sub-contracted airport workers from all backgrounds have fought for years to transform these low-wage jobs into family sustaining jobs with good benefits that strengthen our communities and economy,” 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said this week.
Some 25,000 wheelchair agents, security officers, baggage handlers, and cabin and terminal cleaners working during the COVID-19 pandemic cannot afford comprehensive healthcare coverage.
“Essential airport workers secure terminals, sanitize planes, keep passengers safe and our economy running,” said Bragg. “They are predominantly Black and immigrant workers who have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, all the while dealing with systemic racism that impacts every aspect of their lives.”
Supporters of the bill include Assembly Bill Sponsor Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) and state Senate Bill Sponsor Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx, Westchester).
“Frontline airport workers have risked their lives by showing up to work during COVID-19 and other public health crises because they could not afford to stay home,” said Hyndman. “Nothing is more important than protecting the people whose job it is to protect us, and adequate, affordable health insurance is their first line of defense. I am proud to stand with airport workers in their fight for healthcare.”
Biaggi shared Hyndman’s sentiments.
“The passage of the Healthy Terminals Act is fueled by the tireless organizing and strength of essential airport workers, labor advocates, immigrants, and working families,” said Biaggi. “By enacting the Healthy Terminals Act, we can provide tens of thousands of airport workers, including those who work for subcontractors, with the ability to purchase health insurance without falling into poverty.”
In the past, airport workers have had to face off against both SARS and the Ebola virus with little to no protections, as well.
“Workers of color have kept this country together throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, even without the basic protection of adequate healthcare,” said Vladimir Clairjeune, a former Haitian American JFK security officer. “This is a victory in the much larger fight for racial and economic justice. In our corner of the world, we have shown we can make a difference for the thousands of Black, Latino, and immigrant workers who make up the fabric of our airports.”