By Coral Garnick, July 25, 2014, Seattle Times
Hourly minimum wage for airfield support workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will raise to $11.22 in January 2015, and $13 in January 2017, after a final vote by the Port of Seattle Commission last Tuesday.
The wage increase applies to about 3,500 contract workers at the airport, including those who handle cargo and baggage, check in passengers, and workers such as wheelchair attendants and those involved in catering, cleaning maintenance, fueling, dispatching and security.
Under the new policy, total minimum hourly compensation — including tips, health care and other benefits — will equal $13.72 by January. The workers will also receive paid leave of one hour per 40 hours worked.
Total minimum compensation will increase to $15.50 by January 2017, and will then increase annually at the rate of inflation.
“We are really proud of taking this important step to raise the standard of living for these workers,” said Commission Co-President Courtney Gregoire after the decision was announced. “We want to make sure people working at this airport have the ability to raise their families without relying on food stamps.”
Restaurant and retail worker are not covered by this wage increase. Gregoire said the majority of those workers are unionized and already make a livable wage. However, the commission will consider policy requirements for dining and retail later this year when the Airport Dining and Retail Master Plan is developed.
While the wage increase represents a significant jump in pay for many airport workers, it falls short of the $15-an-hour minimum wage for all transportation and hospitality workers approved by voters in the city of SeatTac last fall by Proposition 1.
The measure took effect in the city of SeaTac in January after the November election campaign that drew hundreds of thousands of dollars from labor unions and business groups. King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas’ last-minute decision blocked enforcement at the airport saying the Port has jurisdiction there. The Port has been working on this solution since then, Gregoire said.
YES! For SeaTac, an organization represent more than 100 groups concerned about the quality of life for Port employees, appealed that decision, and the case is currently in the State Supreme Court.
“What the Port has come up with is too late and a few dollars short,” said Heather Weiner the organization spokeswoman.
With a court decision expected by the end of the year, she said the Port’s decision is irrelevant.
Gregoire said the Port understands there is a court case pending, but hopes the court recognizes the Port of Seattle is unique and has a unique authority of the airport and stands by the Ports decision saying she thinks it is a good solution.
“You know you are probably in a good place when some people are saying you didn’t go far enough, and others that say we went too far,” she said.