Philip Bronder-Giroux' Remarks to MassPort Board

September 20, 2012

Remarks to Mass Port Board of Directors

By Philip Bronder-Giroux

Re:  Impact on Cities of Everett and Malden from low wage, no benefit jobs at Logan Airport

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Board:

Thank  you for allowing me the opportunity to present to you what I regard as a most pressing issue facing the communities of Everett and Malden – two cities that I know well both from residing in Malden and from my eighteen years as Executive Director of Tri-City Community Action Program (Tri-CAP), the antipoverty agency for those two cities. I wish to address what I both see and hear from local residents regarding the impact of continued public and private investment at Logan Airport while many workers, many who reside in Everett and Malden, continue to receive very low wages, only part-time employment or multiple part-time jobs with no or few benefits. These residents often work for service contractors (whether handling baggage, staffing food concession stands or newsstands) with little job security, minimum wages, no paid sick or paid vacation time.

How does the quality of work and work conditions at Logan Airport affect our communities? Minimum wage jobs destabilize families, neighborhoods and entire cities. To afford rent, food and transportation, (the most basic of necessities), a two parent household working at minimum wage would need to each work nearly 60 hours per week to afford a $1,200 rent! In reality, many workers are piecing together two or three part-time jobs that don’t provide sufficient resources to pay for life’s necessities, that don’t allow parents to spend time together or with their children, that prevent them from engaging in the civic and public life of their community and that destabilize neighborhoods through their multiple relocations trying to stay ahead of the latest eviction process.

On Tuesday evening I attended a visioning session sponsored by the City of Everett to improve the area identified as “lower Broadway.” Not a single person of color or person whom I could identify as one of the newly arrived members of our community, attended. This was not because these persons are not interested in what is happening to their community or that they can’t be bothered to show up and engage in civic life.  Time and time again in conversations with newly arrived residents, I hear that they are simply too exhausted or they are working such irregular shifts that they can’t attend public meetings, get involved with their child’s school or even get to know their neighbors.

Mass Port can begin to change this reality for its workers and for our communities. I ask that in negotiations with service contractors, Mass Port insist that workers be paid living wages, that contractors be required to subsidize a “benefits pool” that would allow part-time workers to receive paid sick time, holidays and vacations from that pool. These relatively simple, common sense steps would improve the quality of life in our communities. In addition to giving workers the mental relief to know that they can take care of a sick child or attend a parent conference when needed, living wages would begin to lift worker residents out of poverty. 13% of Malden residents and 12% of Everett residents currently live below the federal poverty line with many, many more living under 200% of the poverty line – 25% and 32% respectively. We can and must do better. I ask for your commitment to move towards living wages and fair benefits for all who work at Logan Airport.

Thank you.

[200% of poverty for a family of four: @$46,000!)

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