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Seattle Port Commission Pushes Back Against Pressure To Adopt SeaTac Living Wage Law

Port of Seattle commissioners are pushing back against pressure from other elected officials to adopt the SeaTac living wage ordinance at Sea-Tac Airport.

A total of 57 state lawmakers, King County officials and SeaTac city officials have urged the commission to drop its opposition to the SeaTac minimum wage ordinance. Last November, SeaTac voters approved Proposition 1 to lift wages for some workers in and around the airport to $15 per hour. 

The port has argued in court that the city of SeaTac lacks jurisdiction to impose pay levels at the airport, and a King County judge agreed.

Port commissioners say they’re working on their own effort to address the issue of wages. At a hearing on airport job quality that lasted hours Tuesday, commissioner Stephanie Bowman bristled at the pressure other lawmakers have put on port officials.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all. If there was, I think somebody would have come up with it before. So just saying, ‘Go ahead and enact Prop. 1 as is’ is not the answer for me. We’ve got to figure out a way that works for all employees, [so] that we have jobs for everybody,” she said.

Many of the people invited to speak at the hearing were business owners at the airport. Of the three workers who spoke, only one urged the commission to adopt the living wage ordinance.

But a spokeswoman for the Yes for SeaTac campaign, which sponsored the initiative, called the hearing political puppetry. Heather Weiner said supporters weren't given enough notice to be able to get workers to downtown Seattle for the hearing.

Port spokesman Jason Kelly said that the port worked with Unite HERE Local 8, a union that supported the initiative, to find a worker to testify. He added there will be other opportunities for workers to speak, including at monthly meetings at the airport.

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.