Recent protest demonstrations at New York's major airports have brought attention to the fact that many persons working at airports in the United States are earning sub-human wages. In the same way that, in the late 1960s, the low wages and poor working conditions of grape pickers in California and Florida led to a nationwide (and ultimately successful) boycott of table grapes (and later lettuce), a great many compassionate travelers are asking for legislation that would raise the wages of underpaid airport workers.
In New York--a city with some of the highest costs in the nation for lodgings, food and transportation--persons working full time at the cleaning of airplane cabins after they have landed, receive an hourly wage of $8--and no benefits (medical, sick leave, vacations) at all. Persons working as security guards often earn the same $8 per hour. Most of them work full-time, and yet are unable to feed their families without going on public assistance. Some of them are compelled to work at more than one job, and still have difficulties.
Nationwide legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is stalled in Congress. Legislation to raise the minimum wage in New York City to that level remains blocked by the refusal of the New York State legislature to increase the scope of earlier legislation that will raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour at some time in 2015. In the meantime, all of us pass blithely through airports whose workers labor full time to earn a total of $320 a week, without benefits. Is $320 a living weekly wage?
I would be interested to hear from our readers on this subject. Do you believe that we, as travelers, have a moral right to rely on the full-time labor of airport employees earning $8 an hour?