Airport workers excluded from wage hike rally for $15 an hour

SEA-TAC -- Airport workers at Sea-Tac fired back at a court ruling saying that they won’t be entitled to a $15 an hour when the new minimum wage law kicks in Wednesday.

“It’s ridiculous that I still need public assistance just to feed my wife and just to feed my son,” said airport worker Joshua Vina.

Frustration over low wages at the airport is what started this whole fight, so it’s rather ironic that those workers won’t be enjoying the results of the historic vote last month to significantly hike the minimum wage in the City of SeaTac.  “It feels like I’m working like a slave,” said Vina.

Vina makes $9.50 an hour working for a ground services vendor at Sea-Tac Airport.  He was looking forward to New Year's Day when his pay would rise nearly 60%.  “They make enough to pay you a living wage,” he said.

Last week a Superior Court judge ruled that the Port of Seattle has control over wages at the airport; the City of SeaTac doesn’t.  That means the new $15 minimum wage law will apply only to the 1600 hospitality workers in the City, not to 4700 low-wage earners at the airport.

“The voters were very clear that they approved the entire proposition,” said Heather Weiner, spokesperson for Yes!ForSeaTac, the campaign that pushed the ballot measure, “not just the part of it applying to people working outside a certain geographic line.

Weiner said her group has filed a petition today with the State Supreme Court to challenge the lower judge’s decision.  “Suddenly what you have is a rights-free zone here, a mini Bangladesh in the middle of SeaTac, where people work without rights,” Weiner said.  “We don’t think that’s fair.”

The lawsuit challenging the SeaTac minimum wage law was brought by Alaskan Airlines.  They were not available today for a comment about the worker rally.