More than 1,500 service workers contracted at the metro area’s three largest airports have found themselves without work as the COVID-19 outbreak leads to steep drops in travel and brings commerce to a standstill.
Their jobs at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, and in Queens, N.Y. at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport, range from cleaning terminals and airplane cabins, to customer service and baggage handling, according to the union that represents them, the 32BJ Service Employees International Union. Of those laid-off, 120 workers were at Newark airport.
“[Last] week, airlines asked the government to give them a $60 billion bailout in the form of loans, grants and tax relief,” 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said in a Saturday statement. “While the airlines stated they need a bailout to protect airport workers’ jobs, they have allowed thousands of contracted airline workers to lose their jobs with no compensation.”
Both Congress and the Trump administration have scrambled the past several weeks on a federal stimulus that could keep businesses small and large afloat, and make sure that nationwide, citizens have money they could put back into their local economies. But those efforts stalled over the weekend after U.S. Senate Democrats blocked the measure.
Airline travel has plunged as people choose to stay home and many countries impose travel restrictions. Delta Airlines last week said it would make cuts by 40 percent to its passenger capacity, in an effort to stay out of the red.
In New Jersey, the COVID-19 outbreak has decimated business across the board, as millions of state residents stay at home and Gov. Phil Murphy orders the closure of virtually any establishment where people might congregate.
All of this is in an effort to promote “social distancing” – where people stay at least six feet apart – in an effort to starve the virus of potential new hosts.
“We have no choice,” Murphy said at a telephone press briefing on Saturday. “That economic impact will be overwhelming one way or the other. I’d prefer to take it now and I’d prefer to take it in concert with keeping deaths and sicknesses as low as possible.”
Airlines for America, the national trade group which lobbies on behalf of the nation’s largest airliners, could not be immediately reached for comment.