$19 an Hour: Country's Highest Minimum Wage Approved for New York Airport Workers

September 28, 2018 AT 10:10 AM

By Patrick McGeehan

For years, the three main airports that serve New York City have been the site of one of the country’s biggest fights over the minimum wage. A Republican governor and airline companies were pitted against Democratic officials and labor leaders over how much to pay workers who clean planes, load luggage and perform many other duties.

On Thursday, the campaign ended in victory for as many as 40,000 airport workers who are now on a path to earning at least $19 an hour, the highest minimum wage target set by any public agency in the country. The pay increase, which was approved unanimously by the commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will raise the wages of tens of thousands of workers over the next five years.

It will go well beyond the $15 minimum hourly wage that several cities have enacted and that New York State will adopt as the base wage for many workers at the end of the year. And it may add impetus to union-led campaigns to reverse the widening gap in incomes between rich and poor Americans even amid a robust economy.

The vote by the Port Authority board came after several months of deliberation and years of pleading and pressure from unionized airport workers. The airlines that contract with the companies that employ many of the workers also complained about raising wages, arguing that such a move could ultimately force them to pass along the costs to travelers.

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