$15 Minimum Wage Attacked by Corporations and Port of Seattle
By Maureen Bo, PSARA Administrative Vice President
We’re not done yet! Sea Tac’s Proposition 1 passed narrowly, even after a recount forced by opponents. PSARA was asked by the Prop 1 campaign to testify at a Seattle Port Commission meeting to urge the Port to remain neutral in the law suit filed by Alaska Airlines, Washington Restaurant Association and airport food concessionaire Filo Foods in opposition to the wage increase. The Port maintained neutrality during the ballot campaign, but was apparently pushed by the corporations to join in the suit on the theory that its jurisdiction might somehow be diminished by Prop 1.
The law suit claims that Prop l “is unenforceable because it exceeds the small city’s initiative power and legislative authority, noting that the airport falls under the Port of Seattle’s control.” (Seattle Weekly) Many supporters of Prop 1 from the union, faith, and civic groups testified, urging the Port to stay out of the suit. Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, wrote that the suit would leave workers in a legal “no man’s land” at airports across the state. Dave Freiboth, Executive Secretary of the Martin Luther King County Labor Council testified that if the Port’s concern was about diminishing their jurisdiction, there were other ways to clarify their turf that were better than quashing the workers’ wage increase and the ballot initiative.
As PSARA Administrative Vice President, my comments to the Port Commissioners strongly urged them to stay out of the suit. Below are excerpts from my comments to the Commission:
“PSARA represents over 1100 retirees and workers in this area, workers who hope to retire some day in safety and dignity.
– We believe that economic justice must extend to all workers and retirees.
– We believe that employers who force workers to work while sick, because they won’t pay sick leave, and workers who are so low paid they can’t afford to stay home sick for a day without pay, endanger all of us in the community—especially seniors who may be more vulnerable to who is coughing on our hamburgers.
“PSARA supports the Sea-Tac initiative because it will improve the lives of workers, improve public health, improve the economy in the Sea-Tac area (because workers spend their extra money locally for things they need rather than put it in the Cayman Islands or Swiss bank accounts). And it will ensure economic justice.
– We believe that this is Our Public Port and it should not join with corporations whose aim is to keep workers at poverty wages in order to enhance corporate profits.
-We see a threat to workers and the democratic initiative process if airports are declared a legal “no mans land” as this suit may cause; and we see a grave misuse of Our tax dollars if the Port joins the case as it drags through court.
We ask you not to support Alaska Airlines suit and remain neutral—and let justice and democracy prevail for workers.”
So much for the public and Our Public Port and Our Tax dollars. The Port, while announcing neutrality, filed a brief essentially joining the corporation suit.
But we are not done. We will take further actions on behalf of the workers at Sea-Tac and Seattle. More workers, cities and national political leaders are demanding higher wages to help diminish the highest income inequality in nearly 100 years. John Burbank, Economic Opportunity Institute Director, and a PSARA member, wrote recently in Real Change “If the minimum wage had grown proportionally with the increase in productivity in the past 30 years, it would be at $17 an hour now.”
At a rally in support of Prop 1 on the day of the hearing at the King County Regional Court in Kent, PSARA Executive Board member Jim Grayson publicly cut his Alaska Airlines frequent travel card and pledged not to fly Alaska again. Stay tuned for more actions on this issue. No doubt we will have the opportunity to remember the actions of the Commissioners of the Port of Seattle in the next election!