The city of SeaTac has a population of 26,909, according to the 2010 census, and its boundaries encompass the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The city incorporated in February 1990.
In May 2013, the independent group SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs filed a City of SeaTac petition to enact a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour for all transportation and hospitality employees in the city of SeaTac, Wash., including the airport.
The proposal was to cover Seattle-Tacoma Airport (Sea-Tac) businesses, including baggage handling, passenger services, security, aircraft fueling, retail stores, hotels and car rental companies.
The American Car Rental Association (ACRA) opposed the initiative, along with Common Sense SeaTac, a business-backed political action committee.
The initiative went to ballot as Proposition 1 in November and narrowly passed, legally requiring a hand recount. With more than 6,000 votes cast, 77 votes separated the two sides. The measure went into effect on Jan. 1.
However, after the recount, Judge Andrea Darvas of King County Superior Court ruled the Port of Seattle, not the city of SeaTac, has jurisdiction over Sea-Tac Airport. Therefore, Judge Darvas ruled that the proposition only applies to around 1,600 workers in the city of SeaTac, not the 4,700 airport employees.
The proposition was drafted by local unions to include all employees in the city of SeaTac, and since the airport is the single largest employer in the area, fewer people — including those working for car rental companies at the airport — are affected by the measure than supporters originally hoped.
Car rental companies serving the Sea-Tac Airport are located in a consolidated rental car facility that falls under the Port of Seattle’s jurisdiction and thus are unaffected by the decision.
For and Against
The Washington State minimum wage of $9.32 is the highest in the country, but according to Heather Weiner of the union-backed political group Yes for SeaTac, the cost of living in the Seattle-Tacoma area is one of the highest in the state.
Weiner says that despite the airport having profitable car rental companies, airlines and other travel-related businesses, the city has one of the highest poverty rates in Washington state.
The drive behind the proposition is to guarantee airport employees’ wages that match the cost of living in SeaTac, regardless of experience, education or skill.
Besides the $15 minimum wage, employees would also receive paid sick and safe time and 100% of service-given charges and tips. Weiner states, “the reason voters approved the initiative is because they were seeing their friends, their family, their neighbors working full-time jobs yet still living in poverty.”
“The government should not be getting involved in the day-to-day operations and employee standards of a private enterprise,” says Doris Cassan, licensee of Dollar Rent A Car operating at Sea-Tac Airport.