airport union protest

airport union protest Credit: Rep. Charles Rangel joined elected leaders and hundreds of airport workers. (Alejandra Villa)

Rep. Charles Rangel and a roster of other New York City elected officials were arrested Monday afternoon as part of a protest outside LaGuardia Airport demanding higher wages and paid holidays for airport workers.

Hundreds of 32BJ-SEIU union members marched across the 94th Street and Ditmars Boulevard bridge leading to LaGuardia rallying for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to serve as a paid holiday. Union officials said many airport contract workers, from security guards to those who clean inside airplanes, receive minimum wage with no paid sick days or vacation time.

"I'm ready to get put in jail today to let everyone know we will fight for decent wages," Rangel (D-Harlem) told the crowd of workers in a speech before the march.

Seven members of the New York City Council also were arrested as part of the protest including Ydanis Rodriguez, Mark Levine, Jimmy Van Bramer, Inez Dickens, Carlos Menchaha, Ritchie Torres and Antonio Reynoso.

NYPD officials on the scene said they arrested 30 protesters on disorderly conduct charges after they refused to vacate the roadway. Those arrested included Assemb. Keith Wright and union president Héctor J. Figueroa.

The Port Authority couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, while not among those arrested, addressed the crowd and said, "The City Council stands united to support you."

Public Advocate Letitia James blasted airport contractors for paying wages that she said led to "too many airport workers relying on public assistance."

"We demand justice and dignity for airport workers," James told the crowd.

Prince Jackson, 56, of Jamaica, Queens, said he works as a security guard at Kennedy Airport making $8 an hour, but has not received a raise in four years and is not entitled to paid sick time.

"Martin Luther King Jr. was a friend to the workers in his day, and the workers of today would like to be able to commemorate his memory by fighting for our rights as employees," Jackson said.

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