Airport workers demand $15 minimum wage approved by voters

SEATTLE -- Sea-Tac International Airport workers packed a Port of Seattle meeting Tuesday, demanding a $15 minimum wage that voters in the city of SeaTac approved in November.

It’s the latest chapter of the battle that been fought this past year in the city.

“If I miss one day (of work), I’m behind on rent,” said baggage handler Weston Robinson.  “If I miss two days, behind more.”

Robinson and several others testified before Port of Seattle commissioners in their first meeting of the new year.

SeaTac voters approved a $15 minimum wage in the Nov. 5 general election.  But just a few weeks later, a judge threw out on technical grounds the part of the measure that applies to workers at the airport, which is governed by the Port of Seattle.  Those workers are now targeting the elected Port of Seattle commissioners to adopt the will of the voters in the city of SeaTac.

“I absolutely have to have roommates, or else I cannot make it,” said Mario Young, who also works as a baggage handler at the airport.  “I’m having trouble even furnishing my own apartment.”

The labor leaders that pushed for the SeaTac vote argue that nothing is stopping the Port of Seattle from enacting a $15 minimum wage on their own.

“The voters in SeaTac voted to raise the wages,” said Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for the SeaTac ballot measure.  “ should cooperate with the City of SeaTac and raise wages for 4,700 people who are making our airport one of the best in the country.”

On Tuesday, port commissioners said they were committed to studying the issue and promised to have a "living wage" proposal by June, though they stopped short of committed to $15 an hour.

“We’re telling you we’re going to act,” said Commissioner Courtney Gregoire.  “We understand that there are pending legal matters out there, but we want to take this up.”

She said the voters have expressed their will and “we can’t ignore that.”