The Business Council of New York State, the state’s leading statewide business and industry association, opposes this legislation that would amend the Labor Law to enact the "healthy terminals act.” The purpose of the bill is to mandate that employees at airports controlled by the Port Authority receive prevailing wages and supplemental benefits as determined by the state Department of Labor.
The Business Council oppose the enactment of this law for several reasons.
First and foremost, it should be noted that this legislation employs a confusing, circular definition of “covered airport worker” and “covered airport employer” so it is not actually clear who is covered. The bill provides that a “covered airport worker means any person employed by a covered airport employer to perform work at a covered airport location” and a “covered airport employer means any person, corporation, limited liability company, or association employing any covered airport worker.” If this plain language interpretation is to be followed, then all employees working at a covered airport will be subject to an expanded prevailing wage mandate (with the exception of persons in executive, administrative, or professional positions, or persons already covered by other state prevailing wage provisions).
As such, this language would clearly apply the prevailing wage mandate to employees of airlines working at these covered airports – an outcome that we and others have been told is not the intent of this legislation. If airline employees are not supposed to be covered by this bill, the bill must be amended to make that clear.
If airline employees are to be covered, we strongly oppose this measure. As has been well reported, the airline industry has suffered extreme adverse impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, with reductions in passengers and revenues of up to 90 percent. Airlines for America (the national trade association covering our member airlines) notes that as of June 2020, the rate of decline in air travel from New York airports per day in both flights and seats is down 83 percent from the previous year. Further, after the establishment of quarantine for arrivals from other states in June, bookings between New York and the rest of the United States were down 87 percent by mid-July, as compared with 2019.
There is no justification for imposing artificially high labor costs on this sector at a time when they are facing such significant economic challenges.
Even if airline employees are exempt from this new mandate, we still have serious concerns, as it would still add to the cost of airport management – costs that are significantly paid for by assessments on airlines and their customers. Again, with the airline industry facing significant and long term reduction in passengers and revenues, we believe it will be counterproductive to impose additional, if indirect, costs on this sector.
Finally, because this proposal specifically targets the airline industry and affects prices, routes, and services, we have been informed that this may be pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA).
With the financial crisis plaguing the economy and decimating airline operations – and the uncertainty of when this pandemic will end – this kind of legislation poses a major blow to the operations of the airline industry in New York State.
For the above reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation.