By John Lynds
State Representative Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston) and Senator Sal DiDomenico’s (D-Chelsea) bill that was co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Ryan (D-Chelsea) to raise the base pay for Logan Airport workers to $15 per hour came out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and now moves to the Senate, where it awaits further consideration. The bill received a favorable report by the Committee.
“Logan Airport is a great place to start implementation of a $15/hour wage floor and the guaranteeing of worker’s rights. Airports are pretty much self-contained, self-governing workplaces with huge government expenditure and oversight. If we can’t get wage equality done right there then just throw in the towel on the rest of our economy”, said Ryan.
Ryan said the irony is, when it comes to competing against more profitable international carriers major US airlines want the government to help level the playing field. However, the government is supposed to butt out of the ‘free-market’ when it comes to providing worker’s rights and a livable wage.
“You can’t have it both ways. Government is either here to help level the playing field or it isn’t. Government built the airline industry, subsidizes the airline industry and bends over backwards to keep it profit driven,” said Ryan. “All we ask for in return is a fair, livable wage for our front line workers. I thank SEIU 32BJ for continuing to call attention to this workplace disparity. I thank Senator DiDomenico and Representative Madaro for taking the lead.”
At a hearing last month before the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, Madaro testified that Logan Airport is a critical hub in Massachusetts that serves more than 20 million passengers a year and brings in more than $7 billion in economic activity to the area. However, despite Logan’s positive financial impact on our Commonwealth, it is also one of the leading low-wage work sites in the region.
“By voting to move our Airport bill forward, the committee is sending a clear message: no one should be working full time and remain in poverty,” said Madaro. “This legislation supports struggling workers, many of whom live in my district. Decent wages and fair contracts not only protect workers, they also ensure the kind of quality service that Boston’s visitors deserve.”
Madaro added that to cut costs, airlines have outsourced passenger service jobs to low-bid contractors, a system that leaves over 1,500 employees making as little as $10 an hour, without access to affordable health care.
“An increase in wages would be life-changing for airport workers, and would cost airlines just cents of every dollar they earn at Logan,” he said.
Madaro, Ryan and DiDomenico strongly urged the committee to pass the legislation, stating that MassPort has already established a minimum wage for aviation service workers of $11 an hour in January 2016 and the bill would build upon that practise by raising wages to $13.50 in 2017 and $15 by 2018 for these Logan employees. The bill would apply to all baggage handlers, airplane cleaners, wheelchair assistants and other employees at Logan International Airport.
“People who work for a living ought to be able to make a living, but unfortunately this is not the case for the thousands of aviation service workers at Logan Airport who continually struggle to make ends meet,” said DiDomenico. “Far too many of these employees work long hours, for low pay, and under difficult working conditions, all while performing their jobs in highly sensitive areas. With this bill, my colleagues and I in the Legislature now have a real opportunity to ensure that the people who make Logan Airport work for all of us get the respect, dignity, and wage that they deserve.”
Due to the efforts of the Fight for $15 movement, there has been a growing push nationwide for higher wages for the lowest paid workers. As a result, $15 an hour has now become a reality in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and it is the minimum pay at leading companies throughout the country. In Massachusetts, this bill has also become part of a larger conversation surrounding the need to bridge the gaps of income inequality.