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Senate Approves Ruiz & Sweeney Bill to Raise Wages for Airport & Transit Workers

Sen. Ruiz and Sen. Pres Sweeney

“Safe Transportation Jobs and Fair Employment Rules Act” Sets Minimum Wage for Newark Airport, Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate President Steve Sweeney to raise wages and ensure adequate benefits for workers at Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal received final legislative approval today in the Senate. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

The bill, S-3226, would enact the “Safe Transportation Jobs and Fair Employment Rules Act,” or the “STAFER Act,” which would set a minimum wage and compensation rate for subcontracted transportation center service workers at the three facilities. The bill would base the minimum standard on federal and state rates of pay for specific workers – currently set at $17.98 an hour, plus $4.27 in benefits, paid vacation and certain holidays.

“The men and women who work at Newark Airport, Newark Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal shouldn’t have to work at poverty wages. These are the workers who ensure that we are safe and secure when we are traveling through our airports, on rails and ferries,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Workers at Port Authority-operated airports in New York already got a raise as a result of the increase in the minimum wage in New York. It’s time that New Jersey workers, who are doing the same work as their counterparts in New York, also got the wages they deserve. This is about fairness and providing employees who work hard every day with a livable wage.”

Because New York has a higher state minimum wage, workers at Port Authority operations in New York State are paid more than those working in New Jersey-based operations. That means employees at LaGuardia and JFK airports make more than Newark Airport workers who earn just $10.20 per hour—about $21,000 per year—less than the federal poverty level for a family of four.  New York recently passed a minimum wage law of $15 an hour. The state’s minimum wage is currently $11 an hour, and is set to increase to $13 an hour in December and $15 an hour in December of 2018.

“The current wage scale for New Jersey employees at these transportation centers undervalues the critical work they do every day to keep our airports and transit facilities safe, clean and operational for those who depend on them,” said Senator Sweeney.  “Employees at these facilities are often the first to respond to dangerous situations and help ensure the safety of passengers. They deserve decent wages and benefits and I’m proud to sponsor legislation that will provide for that.”

The bill would apply to workers at Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal who are employed by subcontractors of private entities such as the airlines or concession vendors, and require that they be compensated at a rate that is no less than the applicable standard rate for subcontracted transportation center service workers.

The rate of pay would be based on the greater of either the Guard 1 rate under the Federal Service Contract Act or the applicable rate of an unarmed guard under the New Jersey State Building Service Contracts Act. These two rates are currently the same and equal $17.98 an hour plus $4.27 in supplemental benefits.

The minimum wage rate for a subcontracted transportation center service worker who is a food service worker, a skycap or a redcap receiving tips shall be a cash wage of at least two-thirds of the minimum wage rate, provided that the tips of the employee, when added to the employee’s cash wage, are equal to or exceed the minimum wage rate. Tipped skycaps, redcaps, and food service workers would also receive the full amount of benefits and paid time off minimums as provided under the bill.

The Assembly approved the bill last week by a vote of 51-23-1. The Senate approved it today 23-15.