By Josh Eidelson
Following a county judge’s ruling dramatically narrowing the scope of an airport town’s landmark $15 wage law, labor groups plan to take their case to the Washington state Supreme Court.
“The legal issue in front of the court will be whether the airport is a legal island immune from decisions from the voters – in this case Seatac – to bring back good jobs to our community,” Service Employees International Union Local 6 president Sergio Salinas told reporters at a New Year’s Eve press conference. “The larger issue is about multinational corporations making huge profits at our publicly owned entities and airports, when thousands of people doing the hard work these days don’t make enough to feed their families.” Salinas cited the profits of plaintiff Alaska Airlines; in October, Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden celebrated “our best quarter ever” and “Alaska’s 18th consecutive quarterly profit,” according to the local News Tribune. Alaska Airlines did not immediately respond to a morning inquiry.
As I’ve reported, the $15 law, passed by a narrow referendum in November, establishes the country’s highest municipal minimum wage; though with exclusions for some non-airport businesses, as written it covers only about 6,000 workers. Proponents project that Judge Andrea Darvas’ Dec. 27 ruling, which excludes those “doing business on property under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Port of Seattle” from the law, would cut that figure to less than 2,000. “The Washington State Legislature,” Judge Darvas wrote in her Dec. 27 decision, “has clearly and unequivocally stated its intent that municipalities other than the Port of Seattle may not exercise any jurisdiction or control over SeaTac Airport operations, or the laws and rules governing those operations.”