Minimum wage standards expanded, but not to airport subcontractors

philadelphia international airport
Rikard Larma/Metro. Advocates say many workers who keep the airport going aren’t getting a share of the wealth.

City Council on Thursday expanded the Philadelphia 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard ordinance to require city companies and contractors with 25 or fewer employees to pay workers a living wage. The requirement previously applied only to employers with more than five workers.

But Council members and advocates said that, according to Mayor Michael Nutter administration’s interpretation of the law, those rules don’t extend to city subcontractors, such as the companies that employ many of the 141,000 workers at the Philadelphia International Airport.

“Right now there is a low-bid contracting system at the airport for airline-subcontracted workers,” said Melanie DeBouse of advocacy coalition POWER.

“Companies compete based on price alone. They compete without having to adhere to wage, benefit, training or equipment standards. Low wages, high turnover and lack of training requirements are the norm.”

Baggage handler Tamir Elliot, who works for airport subcontractor PrimeFlight Aviation Services, supports four children and shoulders student loan debt, but makes only $7.25 an hour.

“I was immediately disappointed when I found out workers like me are employed by airline contractors and are not receiving the benefits or protections of this law,” Elliot said.

He said high turnover has led to staffing shortages and flight delays. “Baggage handlers help make the airport run, but we are treated like the bottom of the barrel.”

Cheryl Freeman, 54, is a wheelchair attendant and security guard for airport subcontractor Aviation Safeguards. She said she actually makes about two dollars an hour less than when she started the job 12 years ago and has never received benefits or paid sick days.

“I’m diabetic and I’m on medical assistance and food stamps,” she said. “I struggle to pay off student loans for my son, who’s in college. I dedicated a good part of my life to the airport and I feel I am not getting the respect I deserve.”

 

A question of authority

 

Bill sponsor Councilman Wilson Goode, Jr. said in his eyes, the minimum wage standards passed by Council already extend to city subcontractors, but the Nutter administration won’t recognize that fact.

“Even through a charter amendment confirmed Council’s authority to set those terms for subcontractors, the administration still claims that authority only extends to contractors,” he said on Thursday.

“I think, eventually, this may be a dispute that ends up in court,” he said. “Because my belief is even if the Council’s authority is limited to creating wage and benefit provisions for contractors … if they subcontract any of the work out, they still have to abide by those.”

That question of authority is a separate issue from the wage standards expansion law, Goode said just before Council took a vote.

“There are two battles we are fighting,” he said. “One we can win today by saying more people should be covered by removing the minimum threshold of 25 employees.”

Nutter’s press secretary declined comment on Thursday pending a thorough review of the legislation.

 

Job creation jabs

 

A short round of verbal sparring broke out on the legislative floor when Councilman David Oh expressed reservations that provisions like the minimum wage standard may make Philadelphia less competitive when it comes to attracting employers.

“I don’t think the way to go is to turn low wage, low skill jobs into better paying jobs because, as result, we’re going to lose more jobs,” Oh said. “I’m concerned about this process. I think the solution is to bring more jobs in, not to create higher paid jobs out of low paid jobs.”

“I thank Councilman Oh for his comments, but they’re completely irrelevant to this piece of legislation,” Goode, Jr. shot back. He said a version of the bill was first passed in 2005 and no study has shown that the law or any other legislation like it has slowed job creation.

“What we’re saying here is if we’re going to provide taxpayer dollars to contractors, to franchises, for leases or for concessions, we’re not going to subsidize poverty wage jobs,” he said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.