NEWARK — As many as 1,000 workers rallied and sat in at Newark airport Tuesday as part of a nationwide call for $15 an hour wages.
The workers, who were joined by fast food employees and other involved in the “Fight for $15” marched through Newark Liberty International Airport Tuesday afternoon, and staged a sit-in at Terminal C. The rally mirrored other similar protests happening at airports and fast food restaurants across the country, organizers said.
The demonstration, held on the fourth anniversary of the start of the “Fight for $15” movement, demanded “economic justice, social justice and immigrant justice,” said 32BJ Union President Hector Figueroa.
“We need (to) unite to raise wages, form unions and improve the lives of all working people in this country.”
The airport workers were also joined by a number of elected officials, including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who has been a vocal supporter of increasing wages at the airport. Baraka, who has been in a public battle with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over control of the airport and Port Newark, addressed the workers at the rally.
“I stand with Newark airport workers and the thousands of other low-paid workers across the country who are marching, rallying and protesting today,” he said in a statement.
“We will continue to support these hardworking men and women to ensure they get what they deserve–at least a $15 minimum wage and union rights.”
In a September press conference, Port Authority Chairman John Degnan pointed out that the workers leading the wage fight at Newark airport work for subcontractors of the airlines, not for the airport itself.
The employees, Degnan said at the conference, are “folks who engender a lot of sympathy and a lot of empathy, in my mind.” But, he said, the union should bargain with the individual employers, not with the Port Authority. The public protests, he said, were acts of “intimidation… I’m not going to bend to that.”
The Port requires its subcontractors pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour.
A spokeswoman for the Port Authority said that although the rally caused a small amount of traffic, it did not interrupt the airport’s regular operations.
A walk-out at a New York City McDonald’s, an effort coordinated with the Newark protest, resulted in 26 arrests there, union officials said. There were no arrests in Newark as a result of the protest, officials said.