SEATAC (Aug. 21, 2015) — In a 5-4 decision, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of the voters’ decision to require employers at Sea-Tac International Airport to pay fair wages and provide sick leave. The ruling overturns a lower court’s decision that sided with Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle in blocking those improvements for airport workers.
“We hold that Proposition 1 can be enforced at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport because there is no indication that it will interfere with airport operations,” read the Supreme Court’s decision. “We also hold that federal labor law does not preempt the provision protecting workers from retaliation.”
Because SeaTac’s minimum wage is adjusted yearly for inflation, the current minimum wage is $15.24, which will be “a big change. It’s more money for me so I can feed my family,” Abdirahmen Abudalli told the Seattle Times. He’s been making $11.50 an hour changing oil and fixing tires for Hertz at the airport. The 34-year-old father of two said his family has had to rely on food stamps and housing assistance to survive.
Airport workers now covered by Prop 1 currently make an average of $1,472 a month, just below the federal poverty threshold for a family of three ($1,590) and far below a monthly budget required to make ends meet in the region for a family of three ($4,136).
Last year SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs and the City of SeaTac appealed the King County judge’s ruling that voter-approved Proposition 1, raising transportation and hospitality wages to $15/hour plus other benefits like paid sick days, does not apply to 4,700 people working for businesses inside SeaTac airport.
That decision in an Alaska Airlines/Port of Seattle lawsuit denied thousands of working families employed at airline contractors/cargo handlers, rental car companies, and airport terminal concessionaires their wage increases, costing an estimated $15.2 million in wages, plus paid sick leave and job protection.
Meanwhile, since 2005, Alaska Airlines has made more than $2 billion in net profits, in part by outsourcing good paying jobs at Sea-Tac to contractors. CEO Brad Tilden is basking in the glory of company shares that hit record highs this week.
Luis Careno, 44, has worked for Menzies Aviation since 2006, hired just months after Alaska Airlines fired 500 unionized employees who earned family-sustaining wages and replaced them with Menzies workers. Careno started worked at Menzies for just $9.75/hour and today, after almost a decade at the company, he makes the same as a new hire at $12/hour.
Likewise, restaurants and stores inside the airport made more than $180 million last year as more than 33 million passengers shopped, ate, and traveled to meetings and their families. Airport restaurants have donated more than 100,000 pounds of food to the Des Moines Area Food Bank, where many of their own workers go to get help to feed their families at home.
Contrary to public understanding, the Port of Seattle has never implemented its own wage and paid sick leave rules, passed days before oral arguments. Port of Seattle Resolution No. 3694, as amended (enacted July 22, 2014) made the effective date of those raises “45 days following the date of a final judicial determination.”