Court ruling confirms $15 minimum wage for airport workers

Alaska Airlines food workers demonstrate in May at the airline's corporate headquarters after the company fought the city of SeaTac's voter-approved $15 an hour minimum wage. (Photo by Alex Garland.)
Alaska Airlines food workers demonstrate in May at the airline’s corporate headquarters after the company fought the city of SeaTac’s voter-approved $15-an-hour minimum wage. (Photo by Alex Garland)

Workers at Sea-Tac International Airport are entitled to a $15-an-hour minimum wage, according to a ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court on Thursday.

Voters in the city of SeaTac had approved the $15 wage in 2013, but some airport workers were still not getting that minimum wage. Food vendor companies Filo Foods and BF Foods, as well as Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association argued in court that the airport was not under the jurisdiction covered by the ballot measure. The Port of Seattle runs the airport.

However, the Washington State Supreme Court decided 5-4 on Thursday that the city’s minimum wage applies to hospitality workers and airline employees at Sea-Tac International. Companies at the airport that did not raise their minimums to $15 an hour will owe back pay to Jan. 1, 2014, which was when the city’s minimum wage went into effect, according to KPLU.

The Stranger reported that about 4,700 people had not yet received the new minimum wages, which could mean payments of up to $15 million in lost wages.

The Washington Restaurant Association said in a statement that it would respect the decision of the court, according to The Seattle Times. Alaska Airlines noted that the company had voluntarily raised minimum wages for more than 1,000 workers to $12 an hour last year, according to KPLU.

Voters in the city of SeaTac approved the $15-an-hour minimum wage narrowly by 77 votes in November 2013 (out of 6,003 ballots cast), according to the King County Elections office.

SeaTac’s higher minimum wage plan was voted in before the city of Seattle passed its own $15-an-hour minimum wage phase-in plan in 2014.

According to the ballot measure passed in 2013, the annual minimum wage is adjusted each year. This year, SeaTac’s minimum wage is $15.24.

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