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Washington Supreme Court To Hear Sea-Tac Airport Minimum Wage Fight

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Should SeaTac’s voter-approved $15 per hour minimum wage apply to workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport? Washington’s Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on that question today.

The case pits airport vendors, Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle against supporters of the higher wage.

On the surface, the law seems pretty clear. It says an airport is “under the exclusive jurisdiction and control” of the municipality that operates it. In this case, Sea-Tac Airport is in city of SeaTac, but it’s operated by the Port of Seattle. A lower court judge previously ruled that because of this the $15 per hour minimum wage does not apply to airport workers.

The city of SeaTac and the backers of the initiative are challenging this. They argue the law on airport jurisdiction is more nuanced. And they say the plaintiffs in the case have not provided “specific evidence” that the higher wage would interfere with airport operations.

Supporters of the higher minimum wage say they plan to show up in force at the Supreme Court. They have not been satisfied by the port’s plans to raise wages that were announced this week.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.