The Port of Seattle Commission introduced a proposal Tuesday to raise the minimum wage to $11.22 in January and $13 in January 2017 for airfield-support workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The wage increase — the latest push in the region to raise the minimum wage — would apply to about 3,000 employees, including those who check in passengers, handle cargo and baggage, and workers such as wheelchair attendants and those involved in catering, cleaning, maintenance, fueling, dispatching and security.
If the measure passes, the total minimum hourly compensation — including tips as well as health, retirement and educational benefits — would equal $15.50, starting in January 2017.
Workers in restaurants and concessions would not be covered by the increase.
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Commission Co-President Courtney Gregoire said the Port would look at the wages of those employees next when concession contracts come up but first had to address airfield-support workers, because of high turnover in that group. That turnover, she said, is a safety and security risk.
Gregoire said they decided to raise the minimum to $11.22 based on a recommendation from the nonprofit Workforce Development Council. The plan is also part of the panel’s Quality Jobs Initiative, which heard this year from airport workers and businesses.
“We measured what it takes for someone working full time to be able to put food on their table and no longer relying on food stamps,” she said.
Gregoire also said the proposed wage increase, along with benefits, was within the Port’s means.
A commission vote is July 1.
While the new minimum wage would represent a significant pay boost, it would fall short of the $15-an-hour mark approved by voters in the city of SeaTac last fall.
Proposition 1 called for raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour for transportation and hospitality workers.
The measure took effect in the city of SeaTac but not at the airport, as King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled that voters did not have the power to raise wages at the airport — only the Port had jurisdiction there.
Darvas said state law gave the Port exclusive jurisdiction over “all operations and activities occurring at the airport, its buildings, roads and facilities,” and municipal ordinance could not be enforced there.
Three weeks ago, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a $15 minimum wage, to be phased in over several years.
The fight to win a $15-an-hour minimum wage for airport workers isn’t over.
Heather Weiner, a spokeswoman for YES! for SeaTac, called Tuesday’s proposal a “very weak and watered-down version of what the voters approved.”
She noted that on Thursday, the state Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether Proposition 1 should be enforced at the airport. The Port Commission’s proposal, she said, was a desperate attempt to influence the court.
YES! for SeaTac, which represents more than 100 groups concerned about the quality of life for Port employees, protested outside the commission meeting. Demonstrators carried “15 NOW” signs to demand all airport workers get a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
In an interview with reporters, Gregoire said the “one size fits all” approach of Proposition 1 does not work.
“We wanted to have a targeted but flexible policy,” she said.
Zahra Farah: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org