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
News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

News

Mets mascot Mr. Met target of Bill Clinton…

Mets mascot Mr. Met has told how he ended up in the crosshairs of a Secret Service sniper rifle. The man behind the Mr. Met…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Local

African couple claiming misidentification in robbery case to…

At a bail hearing today for Vickson and Lorfu Korlewala, charged in the robbery of an 80-year-old woman, bail was reduced from $1 million total to $500,000.

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Music

Both feet on the ground with Aimee Mann…

What began with a cool double-bill of Ted Leo opening for Aimee Mann morphed into a full-fledged collaborative project that they're calling The Both. “There…

NHL

Rangers draw first blood against Flyers in Game…

Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored power-play goals 47 seconds apart to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win.

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.