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San Francisco Officials: Living Wage For Airport Workers 'Has Gone A Long Way'

Eric Risberg
AP Photo
A baggage handler drives a cart below a United Airlines 747-400, at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011.

Since San Francisco set a higher minimum wage for its airport workers back in 2000, the city has seen a positive effect, officials from San Francisco International Airport told Port of Seattle commissioners Tuesday.

Port of Seattle commissioners have been studying whether employees at Sea-Tac International Airport need a raise. Voters in the city of SeaTacapproved a $15 per hour minimum wage for some workers last fall, but a judge ruled it doesn’t apply at the airport.

Other West Coast airports, including San Francisco, have living wage ordinances. Right now, San Francisco’s baggage handlers, security screeners and other workers earn a minimum of $13.16 an hour. They also get 12 paid vacation days a year, which is pro-rated if they work part-time.

“We feel that it has gone a long way to further ensure the safety and security of the airport, as well as having a pretty specific effect on both job performance and customer service,” said Cathy Widener, government affairs manager at San Francisco International Airport.

Widener says employers were able to absorb the higher labor costs through reduced turnover and lower absenteeism. A study by the University of California Berkeley found turnover among airport security screeners dropped by 80 percent in a little more than a year after the higher wage went into effect.  

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.