From staff reporter Zahra Farah
The Port of Seattle Commission introduced a proposal today to raise the minimum wage to $11.22 in January and $13 in 2017 for airfield-support workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The wage increase would affect about 3,000 employees, including those who check in passengers, handle cargo and baggage, and workers such as wheelchair attendants, and those involved in catering, cleaning, maintenance, fueling, dispatching and security.
Workers in dining and concessions would not be covered by the increase.
Commission Co-President Courtney Gregoire said they would look at the wages of those employees next, but first had to address airfield-support workers, because of high turnover in that group. That turnover, she said, is a safety and security risk.
This proposal is a part of the commission’s Quality Jobs Initiative, an effort launched in January. which heard from a panel of airport workers and business owners about wages and job equality.
A commission vote is scheduled for July 1.
The proposal falls short of the $15-an-hour mark approved by voters in the city of SeaTac last fall.
Proposition 1 called for raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour for transportation and hospitality workers. The measure took effect in the city of SeaTac, but not at the airport, as King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled that voters did not have the power to raise wages at the airport — only the Port had jurisdiction there.
Darvas’ ruling said a decades-old state law gave the Port of Seattle exclusive jurisdiction over “all operations and activities occurring at the airport, its buildings, roads and facilities,” so the municipal ordinance could not be enforced there.
Wages and worker conditions at Sea-Tac airport have been an issue for some time as workers have struggled to unionize. They finally sought the ballot measure as a way around federal rules that made union organization difficult.