San Francisco Officials: Living Wage For Airport Workers 'Has Gone A Long Way'

Apr 8, 2014

Since San Francisco set a higher minimum wage for its airport workers back in 2000, the city has seen a positive effect, officials from San Francisco International Airport told Port of Seattle commissioners Tuesday.

Port of Seattle commissioners have been studying whether employees at Sea-Tac International Airport need a raise. Voters in the city of SeaTac approved a $15 per hour minimum wage for some workers last fall, but a judge ruled it doesn’t apply at the airport.

Other West Coast airports, including San Francisco, have living wage ordinances. Right now, San Francisco’s baggage handlers, security screeners and other workers earn a minimum of $13.16 an hour. They also get 12 paid vacation days a year, which is pro-rated if they work part-time.

“We feel that it has gone a long way to further ensure the safety and security of the airport, as well as having a pretty specific effect on both job performance and customer service,” said Cathy Widener, government affairs manager at San Francisco International Airport.

Widener says employers were able to absorb the higher labor costs through reduced turnover and lower absenteeism. A study by the University of California Berkeley found turnover among airport security screeners dropped by 80 percent in a little more than a year after the higher wage went into effect.