Last updated: 04:13 PM ET, Thu February 18 2016

Sea-Tac Workers' Pay Raised to $15 per Hour

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | February 18, 2016

Sea-Tac Workers' Pay Raised to $15 per Hour

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Airport workers in Seattle have been protesting recently in the hope of getting better wages and a more employee-friendly work environment. The employees in question do work on the airport (as baggage handlers, ramp attendants and cabin cleaners), but they are technically not employed by Sea-Tac or by any of the airlines that fly there. Instead, they work for a contractor called Menzies Aviation. 

Airport workers to earn $15 per hour

Seattle-area workers were among the first in the country to see the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour under what has become known as Proposition 1. However, Sea-Tac is officially under its own jurisdiction, so there was an ongoing series of questions about whether it had to abide by the Prop 1 rules. Though many full-time workers who were employed by Menzies were given the $15 wage, they were docked if they were unable to attend work for the required full-time hours during any given week.

Workers have protested what they called unfair conditions several times, including picketing during a nationwide protest by airport workers on Martin Luther King Day. 

READ MORE: Sea-Tac Workers Call For One-Day Strike

This week, Menzies Aviation announced that it was finally going to give its hourly workers what they were looking for. Menzies sent a letter to employees announcing the change: “beginning with all shifts starting on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, the base rate for hourly team members has been increased to $15.24 an hour.”  

The result of ongoing protests

This means that part-time workers and full-time workers who happened to be sick or off for another reason during the week will still be paid the $15 per hour rate (instead of the previous part-time rate that was in the $12 range). 

Menzies employees were well organized during the protest period. The raise in base pay could be seen as a victory for them, but many seemed to think of it as just one step in an ongoing movement. For example, one of the more outspoken Menzies employees, ramp agent Darius Harris, issued a statement following Menzies' pay increase announcement.

In it, he said the pay change would not have been made without the persistent protests: “Make no mistake: Menzies did not agree to pay us the $15.24 we deserve out of kindheartedness. By sticking together, marching, speaking out for change and striking, we made it clear that we would not stop fighting until all employers at Sea-Tac follow Proposition 1.”

READ MORE: Sea-Tac Airport Hosting Record Number of Passengers in 2015

Pursuing more rights in Sea-Tac and at other U.S. airports

Harris went on to say that workers will now seek other changes: “The full implementation of Proposition 1, which provides also for paid sick leave, a path from part-time to full-time work, worker retention, and back pay among other things, is our goal. While we celebrate our hard-fought victory, we realize this is only the first step on our way to making Menzies a better and safer workplace.” 

Airport workers in other parts of the country will see the change at Sea-Tac as a precedent that they can use to justify continuing to pursue similar pay hikes and other rights at their own airports. The organization called Airport Workers United is pursuing a nationwide minimum wage of $15 per hour for all airport employees. 

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