Today, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that a voter-approved initiative for a $15-per-hour minimum wage can be enforced at SeaTac airport, affirming wage increases for 4,700 baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, and other workers. In November 2013, voters in the city of SeaTac approved the minimum wage hike for transportation and hospitality workers, along with paid sick leave and other worker protections, but the law was challenged by Alaska Airlines and the restaurant association.
“Today, SeaTac airport workers join with their counterparts at other West Coast airports, with fast-food workers in New York, and all workers in Los Angeles, to celebrate a huge victory. These and other workers across the country are saying ‘enough’ to wages that keep them in poverty while the CEOs that employ them live in luxury,” said Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project.
“The airline industry’s profits are soaring. The industry made profits projected at $20 billion in 2014 – a 50 percent increase over 2013 estimates. But airport workers have not shared in the riches. Nationally, real average wages declined by 45 percent between 2002 and 2012.”
The decline in wages came as airlines accelerated contracting out of jobs like baggage handling and cabin cleaning. Outsourcing of baggage-porter jobs tripled between 2002 and 2012. Workers covered by the SeaTac ordinance made an average $11.03 per hour in wages prior to the passage of the law.
But a broad movement to raise wages is sweeping the country, with five cities approving a $15 minimum wage in the last 18 months. This month, city councils in Kansas City, Missouri and Birmingham, Alabama became the latest to approve more substantial wage increases for all workers.