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Airlines’ lawsuit to deny raises at Sea-Tac Airport pure ‘chutzpah’


(Nov. 12, 2014) — Even if you don’t come from a Yiddish-speaking household, there’s a good chance you are familiar with the colloquial term “chutzpah:” Sheer gall or arrogance; temerity. As in, “He had the chutzpah, after killing his parents, to beg for mercy from the court because he was an orphan.”

alaska-airlines-WRA-Seatac-suitNow comes this week’s example of chutzpah, brought to us by Alaska Airlines and the trade group Airlines For America. They, along with the Port of Seattle, the Association of Washington Businesses, and the Washington Restaurant Association are the parties that ganged up on the SeaTac community last December to block the voter-approved $15 SeaTac initiative. (We’re awaiting a State Supreme Court decision on their lawsuit; it could come soon.)

You might recall that last June, these businesses told the Washington State Supreme Court that SeaTac voters lacked the authority to enact better pay and working conditions at the airport. More specifically, as Alaska Airlines’ attorney Harry Korrell told the nine justices, Washington state law “grants the Port of Seattle exclusive jurisdiction over the airport and prohibits the City from imposing regulations there.”

Pretty clear, right? Well, that was then.

This week Airlines For America — whose members include Alaska Airlines — sued the Port of Seattle for enacting its own (much weaker) minimum wage of $11.22. The airlines now claim that they have discovered — horrors! — that the Port lacks that “exclusive jurisdiction” authority when it comes to workers’ pay. Essentially, having attempted to kill the SeaTac Good Jobs Initiative, Alaska and its trade group are begging the court for protection from even miserly wage increases called for by the Port.

But despair not: The folks at Alaska and the other airlines have our best interests at heart. In announcing the lawsuit, Airlines For America senior vice president David Berg explained that “Any law affecting wages should appropriately cover all three million workers in the state and not just a small subgroup of employees at Sea-Tac.”

rosenblum-jonathanNow that’s some creative thinking! I have a call in to Berg to see if he’ll sign on to a $15 statewide minimum wage.

Jonathan Rosenblum was the Campaign Director of the SeaTac Airport campaign for Working Washington.


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