Healthy Terminals Act: Murphy expands benefits for airport workers

Legislation increases access to livable wages, affordable health care

Saying he has heard concerns and desperate pleas from airport workers for access to affordable health care and for wages that allow them to support themselves and their families, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Healthy Terminals Act, which creates new minimum wage and benefits requirements for certain Newark Liberty International Airport and Newark Liberty International Train Station workers.

The legislation will expand access to livable wages and affordable health care for workers at the airport and train station, who often cannot afford employer-provided health care plans. The bill impacts more than 10,000 employees, including baggage handlers, guards, cleaners and food service workers, at Newark Liberty International Airport.

“This legislation provides workers at Newark airport the dignity, respect and treatment that they deserve,” Murphy said. “These men and women have selflessly been serving through the COVID-19 pandemic as critical infrastructure workers, and I am proud to sign this legislation that will finally provide them with the health care and compensation that they need and have fought for.”

The bill requires covered airport and train station employees to be paid wage rates that are at least the wages set under the federal prevailing wage law for building service employees.

The bill provides that, on and after Sept. 1, 2021, and every year thereafter, the prevailing wage rate applicable to a covered employee may not be less than the following:

  • Any minimum wage rate established through a policy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey;
  • An amount of wages or supplements equal to the rate designated by the commissioner of labor based on the federal prevailing wage for the geographic region based on federal contracting laws.

Union leaders praised the signing.

“When this bill was introduced, we did not know that we were headed into an unfathomable threat to our lives, our health and our livelihood. COVID-19 hit us hard, making access to health care for our members a matter of life or death,” Kyle Bragg, president of SEIU 32BJ, said.

“Passing this law is a major landmark in the long journey to justice that airport workers have traveled. With the signing of the law, we are one step closer towards a fair contract and the conditions all workers at Newark International deserve.”

Kevin Brown, vice president and New Jersey director for SEIU 32BJ, agreed.

“Gov. Murphy has championed 32BJ members overall, and airport workers especially, since Day One. We are glad that our Legislature and the governor recognize that the Healthy Terminals Act makes sense: it’s good for workers, it’s good for passengers, and it’s good for the airlines,” he said.

“When we invest in the workforce that fuels one of New Jersey’s largest economies, we have healthier people and a healthier airport. Making this a reality in New Jersey is a great milestone in the fight for justice and equality.”