Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer falsely claimed Wednesday that a janitor he met at Kennedy Airport would make more than minimum wage if she belonged to a union, the Washington Free Beacon reports.
Major union figures joined Schumer at a press conference to reaffirm the Democratic Party’s commitment to organized labor. The top Democrat in the Senate lamented to reporters that a Kennedy airport janitor could not make more than minimum wage because her status as a subcontractor didn’t let her join a union.
“I met a young woman on minimum wage cleaning toilets at Kennedy Airport. Twenty years ago it would have been a union job,” Schumer said, according to the Free Beacon. “Freedom to negotiate will turn things around for America, and we’re going to fight, fight, fight to get this done.”
However, airport subcontractors in New York and New Jersey are union members. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) took over contract bargaining for around 7,000 subcontractors at three major airports in 2016, concluding three years of organizing, according to an SEIU press release.
SEIU leaders and new union members celebrated the occasion as a chance for airport subcontractors to make a “livable” wage through the union’s “Fight for $15” campaign, a push to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The contract negotiated by SEIU did not include any changes to workers’ wages or benefits, only improving the subcontractors’ job security and working conditions, The New York Times reports.
Hector Figueroa, president of the SEIU chapter covering the 7,000 subcontractors, said the contract negotiated is “a very good first step in the campaign for 15 and a union,” according to TheNYT.
Schumer corrected his story later in a Senate speech against a Supreme Court case challenging forced union membership for federal employees. He focused on the contract’s added job security and improved working conditions without mentioning wages, according to the Free Beacon.
“She got minimum wage and could hardly support herself,” Schumer said. “When Shareeka and her coworkers won a union contract, they were able to gain the tools they needed to protect themselves and do their work in a safer environment.”
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