SeaTac, May 14 – Airport workers and community allies are moving forward on a voter initiative to improve the jobs of thousands of low-wage workers in and around SeaTac Airport.
Last week, airport workers who are part of the SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs filed an initiative petition with the City of SeaTac and have begun to collect signatures to get the measure qualified for presentation to the City Council, and for inclusion on the November 2013 ballot
More than 90 volunteers came out last Saturday to gather signatures. The Committee expects to gather enough signatures to qualify to get the measure qualified for presentation to the City Council, and for inclusion on the November 2013 ballot in the coming weeks. A broad array of workers, faith and community supporters, union members and retirees are part of the SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs. Working Washington is also part of the Committee.
The measure would set basic employment standards for workers employed in the transportation, tourism and hospitality industries in SeaTac:
- Paid sick leave, to allow workers to care for themselves and immediate family members
- More full-time work opportunities for those who need it
- Companies that collect automatic service charges, or collect tips on customer bills, must give 100 percent of the service charges or tips to the workers who performed the service
- Living wages of at least $15/hour
The measure would cover businesses in and around the airport, including airport baggage handling, passenger services, cabin cleaning, aircraft fueling, security, and retail stores, along with hotels, rental car and parking lot facilities. Small businesses are specifically exempt.
Approximately 5,000 workers, the vast majority of whom are currently stuck in poverty-wage jobs, would see their conditions improved by the initiative. If adopted by SeaTac voters, the initiative would pump millions of dollars a year into the local economy.
“It’s great that so many people support the SeaTac good jobs initiative,” said Yoseph Diallo, an airport ramp worker and one of the SeaTac residents who filed the initiative. “SeaTac it is my home town and that is why I’m committed to getting this good jobs initiative passed. I love SeaTac and I want to make this a better place to live and work.”
Community leaders also spoke out in favor of the initiative.
King County Councilmember Julia Patterson, a SeaTac resident, noted, “When workers aren’t paid a living wage their ability to be self-sufficient is compromised. They are forced to choose between food, housing costs, gas for their car – the day-to-day necessities that most of us can count on. As a result, things like their health care and their ability to save for the child’s college education are secondary, or most likely, out of reach. It’s a cycle that affects not only them, but the entire community. It impacts our schools, our neighborhood health centers, and our community’s economic vitality. ”
The Rev. Jan Bolerjack noted that many low-wage airport workers currently rely on charity for basic living. “I see families of Sea-Tac workers struggling to pay rent and utility bills. Many even visit our food bank regularly. The good jobs initiative can transform poverty wages to good airport jobs for families. The resources are scarce around here but now the neighborhoods are filled with a new hope,” Rev. Bolerjack said. “There is a possibility for change. What a wonderful feeling it brings to our community.”
For more information on the prevalence of low-wage jobs at Sea-Tac, see the report Below the Radar, issued in March 2013 by Puget Sound Sage www.pugetsoundsage.org