Panel backs $10 an hour minimum for airport workers

Demonstrators at MSP airport
A crowd of demonstrators called for a $15 an hour minimum wage at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Dec. 5, 2014.
Tim Nelson | MPR News 2014

The Metropolitan Airports Commission on Monday backed a $10 an hour minimum wage for about 2,800 employees of airline subcontractors.

Commission members voted 11-4 for the proposal, which requires the airport minimum wage to always be $1 more than the state minimum. It takes effect Aug. 1.

Commission Chair Dan Boivin expects wage talks to continue, but said the airport needs to stay competitive to keep airlines from going to similar size airports in the Midwest.

"The reason why we're a successful airport is we have a goal to maintain our costs in the lower third and that includes not driving up all the costs on our airline partners or our attendants here because otherwise they'll go to another, cheaper airport," he said.

The four members who voted against the measure said it wasn't their place to set minimum wage standards.

Commissioner Rick King said the decision should have been left to state lawmakers, not an appointed board, and that employers and employees will not reach agreements if the MAC continues to interfere.

"Agreements are not going to happen if we persist to be in the middle," he said. "The more we're in the middle the less the two sides will come together."

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has also said state elected officials and not local jurisdictions should set the minimum wage.

Some union leaders say the commission's decision Monday should be viewed only as a first step.

Former Delta baggage handler turned labor activist Kip Hedges said it's a good starting point, but that workers should be paid at least $15 an hour.

The commission's move, Hedges said prior to the vote, "does nothing to pull people out of poverty and it does nothing to get them up to what everybody would agree is a living wage."

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