TRENTON – In order to ensure wage guarantees and greater protections and benefits for certain workers at Newark Liberty International Airport and Train Station, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today passed the “Healthy Terminals Act.” The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Linda Greenstein, provides that “prevailing wage” rates will be a minimum standard rate of compensation for those workers, and makes the requirements subject to the “New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act.”
“Workers everywhere deserve a decent wage, and access to affordable quality health care,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “The people who help keep our planes flying and our trains running, and the men and women who make sure our largest airport is safe, clean and functional, are essential in every respect. If they are able to see a doctor, get proper care and earn a living wage it makes all of us healthier, safer and stronger as a community.”
The legislation would apply to any employees of contractors and subcontractors furnishing building services, or any “covered airport or related location worker,” meaning any person employed to perform various jobs at a covered airport or related location who spends at least half their work week performing duties at those locations. The new requirements would be for any person who performs work related to the preparation or delivery of food for consumption on airplanes; it does not include persons employed in an executive, administrative or professional capacity, or anyone employed by a public agency.
In 2018, over 30 million passengers traveled through Newark Liberty International Airport, making this airport and the Newark Liberty International Airport Train Station one of the busiest transit hubs in the country. Part of the focus of the legislation is to provide health benefits that ensure the health and safety of those who work in and among thousands of people every day.
“The coronavirus pandemic has proven we must ensure that every worker, especially those most at risk, including airport workers, have access to affordable healthcare,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Newark airport is a vital hub for the entire region and the people who keep it functioning properly, especially in times of crisis, unquestionably deserve affordable health care and a fair, living wage.”
Workers at the airport and train station often cannot afford employer-provided healthcare plans, and unaffordable healthcare expenses is one of the sources of the high rates of turnover for these essential workers. Improving retention rates among these workers represents an investment in service and safety for all who pass through the airport and train station. Fairly compensating these workers so that they can afford healthcare and receive a prevailing wage is a way to increase retention.
“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind how important Newark airport is to our state’s residents and our state’s economy, so there should be no hesitation to ensure its workers have basic access to health care and a living paycheck in these harrowing times,” Senator Weinberg concluded.
The bill was released from the committee by a vote of 8-4.