Airport Worker (Newark)
For Zakiyy Medina and his coworkers, cooperation is key to a smooth operation
by madeleine thompson
Zakiyy Medina has worked as a baggage handler at Newark Airport for three years and is privy to some of the hub’s coveted secrets. Asked if he’ll share any of them, he jokes, “it wouldn’t be a secret if I share it, right?”
Medina says the job, which involves taking luggage off of planes and making sure they get to the right carousels or final destinations, is mostly manageable. There are stressful periods,too, though, particularly “when we’re dealing with a lot of passengers.”
What with loud plane engines and multiple workers all whirring, things “become a little bit harder” without that crucial element — cooperation.
It just depends on the day. “You get used to being around a lot of people,” he says.
Though he didn’t have experience in the industry before he started the job, Medina says he catches on pretty quickly and now has a solid grip on the work. Airports are “like their own communities,” he says, and he has enjoyed learning about how they operate.
“It gives you a wider perspective on not just the people that you meet but how things work,” he says.
Medina was born and raised in New Jersey, where he still lives with his grandparents. In his free time, he likes making music and has a page on SoundCloud. He has aspirations of becoming a music producer, and as such is a diverse listener of everything from rock to jazz to hip hop. He’s working on building a website for his work.
Medina also serves as a shop steward for 32BJ and has participated in numerous political actions with the union to raise the minimum wage. He has attended Port Authority meetings, leadership meetings, and is especially grateful to have met elected officials such as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
His personal plea to travelers? Make sure your bags aren’t overweight.