Why I'm Spending Today With Air Travelers Instead Of My Family

ByUlysses Grant

Turkey with stuffing, rich and buttery mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and a hearty slice of pumpkin pie. Who doesn´t enjoy a good Thanksgiving dinner? Unfortunately, on just $7.25 an hour, these things are out of reach for me and thousands of other contracted workers at Newark International Airport. 

The tradition of Thanksgiving teaches us to be thankful for the good and simple things that life has to offer: A family walk. Having a good laugh. A healthy and simple dinner. Trust me, God knows that I´m thankful for the simple things. But when you struggle on a meager salary without health insurance or vacation, finding reasons to be thankful is a real challenge. It takes some effort, but I am thankful. 

Like so many other airport workers who clean terminals and airplanes at Newark Airport , I'm about to run out of money. Paying rent is a struggle for most. On minimum wage it´s more like a miracle. Juggling the bills has become my pastime. A turkey for my family? Maybe next year.

I´m thankful for my beautiful family, they light up my day and my life. I just wish I could spend more time with them. Working all day — plus commuting by bus every day — doesn’t leave too much room for quality family time. 

I'm thankful I don't get sick a lot, because when I get a headache, a cold or the flu, I cannot take the day off. I wish I could stay home, but I can´t afford it. So I go to work. Rushing in at the crack of dawn to get to the airport. Cleaning the aircraft cabins as quick as I can. Coughing, sneezing, feeling that my head is going to explode and wondering if things will get better.

I'm thankful for life, but life needs to get better. The airport needs to do better so we all can do better. We cannot continue to live this way; I only have time to work and sleep. I'm always tired.

Last night, I got home early. I cooked dinner for my kids and we watched a movie. Sometimes happiness can be so easy. I'm thankful, but I want change.