Yes For SeaTac: Port Commission 'Tone Deaf'; Agency memo admits it has no authority anyway

Seattle Port Commission 'tone deaf' to voters, airport workers, and elected leaders
News Release:

Port memo admits it does not have authority to implement wage, job standards for airport workers

Low wage Sea-Tac workers say they are fed up with the Seattle Port's tone deaf response to a voter-approved wage increase for thousands of men and women working in the profitable hospitality and transportation industry.

Today's Seattle Port airport jobs quality hearing in downtown Seattle comes on the heels of a strongly worded letter from 57 elected leaders asking the Port Commission to restore voters' trust and fairness for airport workers by withdrawing its opposition to SeaTac Proposition 1.

The Seattle Port has joined the position of Alaska Airlines, its largest airport tenant, in legal proceedings blocking implementation of SeaTac Proposition 1 for 4,700 men and women working for travel businesses operating at Sea-Tac.

"The CEOs of Alaska Airlines and other airport businesses think they are above the law and don't have to play by the rules. The voters said it's time to stand up for the right thing and treat us fairly," said Abdullahi Samatar, who has worked at the airport for 10 years, including for DAL Global Services (DGS).

Alaska Airlines' lawsuit is currently being appealed by airport workers; the WA State Supreme Court is expected to schedule a hearing sometime this spring. Alaska Airlines’ executives were recently caught on tape laughing about what to do with the corporation's record size profits, more than $500 million in 2013.

"The Port is meeting in a warm boardroom 15 miles away and no one I know was invited to speak," said Weston Robinson who works as a ramper at Menzies Aviation, a foreign-owned contractor for Alaska Airlines. "We are the ones people count on. We are the first to bring the plane in, the first the push the plane out, no matter the elements rain, shine or snow. I invite the Port Commissioners to come out on the cold, wet tarmac one night and talk to the real people working overtime to make Sea-Tac a great airport."

It’s unlikely that the Port of Seattle even has legal authority to set wage standards for tenants and concession holders at the airport, according to a newly unearthed memo from Airport Director Mark Reis to Port CEO Tay Yoshitani:

“…the Port is a limited purpose government that does not have the power to mandate that third party employers adopt minimum standards for employment.” (page 17)

And later in the same memo, noting that some other airports have adopted employment standards, the Port says these airports are governed by authorities with:

"general purpose government powers, allowing them to articulate policies related to living wages or other social policies. These are powers that the Port of Seattle does not have, which is relevant to the legal analysis, above.” (pages 20-21)

The Port does have the option of allowing SeaTac Proposition 1 to go forward, taking thousands of area families out of poverty and protecting the public health of millions of Sea-Tac passengers.

“The City of SeaTac invited the Port to enter into an interlocal agreement allowing Proposition 1 to go forward,” said Mia Gregerson, Mayor of the City of SeaTac and Washington State Representative for the 33rd District. “There’s no need for the Port Commission to reinvent the wheel, the voters passed an ordinance establishing living wages and paid sick days for thousands of men and women working in the travel and hospitality industry in our city.”

The Port hearing is being held 15 miles from the airport and was announced Friday afternoon. According to the Port Commission agenda, the three panels are dominated by port staff and airport business executives.

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