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Alaska Air Challenges SeaTac Minimum Wage Initiative

Frank Kovalchek

Alaska Air Group is trying to quash a ballot initiative in the city of SeaTac that would hike wages for airport ground crew and other workers. 

The initiative would set a $15 per-hour minimum wage for hospitality and transportation workers in SeaTac—people at the airport like baggage handlers and folks who push wheelchairs, as well as hotel workers and employees at rental car companies.

Alaska Air has joined with the Washington Restaurant Association and two airport food businesses to challenge the measure in court. Bruce Beckett with the Washington Restaurant Association says it’s too broad.

"The initiative contains wage policies, sick leave policies, restrictions on part-time employment, tip-pooling, employee notice, and retention, and record-keeping requirements. And a ballot initiative is supposed to, and under our state constitution, only have one topic," Beckett said. 

Beckett says it’s also unclear whether the initiative supporters gathered enough legitimate signatures.

Alaska Air said in a statement that the initiative merits more legal review. The airline doesn’t employ many of the ground crew workers directly; they’re employed by contractors that Alaska hires. But in the complaint, Alaska says it might have to raise airfares if its contractors pass along the higher costs.

A court hearing is set for Friday. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.