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Airport Workers Urge Port Commission To Adopt $15 Min. Wage Passed By Voters

Airport workers are urging Port of Seattle commissioners to adopt the $15 per hour minimum wage that voters in the city of SeaTac passed last November. 

The Port of Seattle, which oversees the seaport as well as Sea-Tac International Airport, argued in court late last year that it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the SeaTac minimum wage initiative. King County Judge Andrea Darvas agreed, and as a result, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and other airport workers who had been hoping for a jump in pay at the beginning of this year haven’t gotten one.

Supporters of the initiative are appealing the decision. At the same time, they’re asking port commissioners to just go ahead and adopt the living wage ordinance.

“Competitive airports with the Port of Seattle such as Oakland, San Jose, LAX, even St. Louis already pay their people doing the exact same jobs for the exact same corporations living wages, so the Port of Seattle could do the same thing,” said Heather Weiner, spokesperson for Yes For SeaTac, the union-backed group that sponsored the measure.

Port Commissioner Courtney Gregoire says she and other commissioners want to work with local and state leaders, as well as the labor community and business interests like Alaska Airlines, the airport’s largest carrier, to craft a solution. She says port commissioners want workers to make wages that allow them to support their families.

“A wheelchair attendant who has served our community for 10 years should not have to turn to food stamps to support himself. An airline fueler just starting out who aspires to be a mechanic should see a clear career pathway to get to that job,” she said.

Gregoire says the commission will hold public hearings early this year and take action by June.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has set up a committee to explore setting a $15 minimum wage in the city.

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.
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