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Airport subcontractors hopeful for minimum wage increase after 'historic' Washington decision

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Philadelphia airport workers will celebrate at City Hall on Friday a historic win for low-wage airport workers in Washington and call on Philadelphia officials to be the next city to raise wages.

The workers, to be joined by local faith and community groups, are back to fight for their wages after SeaTac, Washington residents voted to grant the highest minimum wage for airport workers there. More than 6,000 workers be making $15 an hour. A vote recount had been certified earlier this week.

Philadelphia airport subcontractors are hopeful the Washington decision helps May's referendum in Philadelphia to increase the subcontractors' wages to the same as area contractors.

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"It's very exciting for us to see SeaTac is changing their minimum wage to really what we would consider a living wage," said Pati Krasensky, speaking on behalf of Philadelphians Organizing to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER), a group dedicated to bringing justice to the people of Philadelphia. "What this does is bring it into the news in a different way."

In order to have a great international airport, Krasensky said, employees must be treated fairly. "I think it really highlights that in offering employees sick leave and health benefits and a fair minimum wage is really what needs to be done for these airports to be good airports. It's not just really about the employees — although that's a huge part — it's about the overall health and economy of the airport."

At 11 a.m. on Friday, airport subcontractors and faith and community groups will celebrate the win at City Hall. One airport subcontractor, Nikisha Watson, will tell her story. Watson, of West Philadelphia, has been working at the airport for four years. She cleans the planes and previously was employed as a wheelchair attendant. She makes $8.50 an hour — a "huge step up" she says from earning $5.25 with some tips as a wheelchair attendant.

"But it really doesn’t matter which contractor you work for," Watson said, "because there are no across the board standards. Most of the contractors pay as little as they possibly can."

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