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New Contract for Thousands of NY Airport Workers Includes Healthcare

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Friday, July 23, 2021   

NEW YORK -- Over 10,000 New York and New Jersey front-line airport workers will get health insurance as part of new contract negotiations that come at a time when more people are flying.

The Healthy Terminals Act provides zero-premium cost health coverage to contract workers at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty international airports.

According to Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, it's the first state-level legislation of its kind in the country.

Rob Hill, union vice president and airports division director for New York and New Jersey, said it is a victory that they are finally being recognized as essential workers, but it comes at a price.

"And unfortunately, we lost some of our members due to the pandemic and the virus," Hill recounted. "To get the public to see that, and the airlines and state, that these workers have to have health care."

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people of color, in part because many are front-line workers. Hill sees the addition of health insurance as a racial-justice matter, and since contract airport workers are predominantly people of color, he thinks similar measures should be in place at other U.S. airports.

Especially with new variants of COVID-19 spreading, Hill asserted workers having healthcare benefits is in the public interest.

"That concern is also why this is an issue not just for the workers, but for the traveling public," Hill explained. "To know that the airport workers they're coming in contact with have the ability to go to the doctor, and take care of themselves and have sick days, etc."

The contract includes quarterly reviews to ensure compliance with health and safety guidance, along with policies requiring personal protective equipment, social distancing and other precautions. Also included are new policies to protect workers from discrimination for natural hair or hairstyles tied to racial, ethnic or cultural identities.

Disclosure: 32BJ SEIU contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Immigrant Issues, and Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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