The commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey voted unanimously Thursday to raise the minimum wage of workers at three airports to $19 an hour by 2023, the highest government mandated minimum wage in the U.S.
The decision will affect roughly 40,000 workers and airline companies operating at La Guardia Airport and Kennedy International Airport in New York City and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
“This campaign is about respect and paying a fair living wage for honest work in an industry that depends on its employees to safely operate some of the most important public facilities in our nation—our airports,” New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who lobbied the commission to approve the measure, said in a statement. “In New York, we stand with workers and we will always serve as a beacon of progress and opportunity for all.”
The commission is made up of appointed members by the governors of New York and New Jersey.
Cuomo and New York and New Jersey labor unions pushed the commission to adopt the measure for years, but the effort was blocked by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s appointments to the commission. After Christie, a Republican, was replaced by Democratic Gov. Philip Murphy, the commission transitioned in favor of the minimum wage measure, The New York Times reported.
Airline companies fought the wage hike, questioning the commission’s authority to control the pay level of private companies. The tactic delayed the vote for several months but eventually failed. The commission argued low pay was contributing to high worker turnover and making airports less safe.
The first of several staggered increases in the airports’ minimum wage will come Nov. 1. New York’s La Guardia Airport and Kennedy International Airport will set the minimum wage at $13.60 an hour. The wage floor at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport will be set at $12.45 an hour.
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