Alaska Airlines raising wages for Sea-Tac contract ramp workers

Staff writerMay 2, 2014 

SeaTac-based Alaska Airlines says it has raised the entry level wage for contract workers servicing its planes at Sea-Tac Airport to $12 an hour.

The former wage range for those workers was $9.32 to $10.88 an hour.  The wage increase was effective April 1.

For some workers that meant a 28 percent increase in their hourly pay.  The airline took the unilateral step after it surveyed wages for comparable jobs and decided its wages were not in line with the local employment market.

SeaTac voters last fall approved a minimum wage floor of $15 an hour for major employers in the transportation and hospitality sector in the city.

A King County Superior Court judge ruled in December that that law didn't govern wages for vendors at Sea-Tac Airport, which is owned by the Port of Seattle.  Alaska Airlines was a plaintiff in that case.  That case has been appealed to the Washington Supreme Court which is set to hear arguments in the case June 26.

More than 200 other airport contract workers, baggage check-in providers and wheelchair escorts, saw Alaska raise their wages to a minimum for $10 an hour April 1. Alaska raised those workers to a lower minimum wage than ramp workers and cleaners because they routinely receive tips from airport patrons.

"I would say they receive a minimum of $2 an hour in tips -- and in many cases more -- from their customers," said Jeff Butler, Alaska's vice president of airport operations and customer service."

Alaska doesn't pay the workers involved in the latest round of raises directly.  It instead employs outside vendors such as Menzies Aviation, Delta Global Services, Aircraft Services International Group and Bags Inc. to provide those services.  It has told those vendors that it will reimburse them for the higher wages.

“The hard work of our Alaska employees, in conjunction with our vendor partners, have enabled Alaska to consistently rank No. 1 in airline customer service for six years running,” said Jeff Butler, vice president of airport operations and customer service. “We work closely with our vendor partners to determine the most sustainable and meaningful compensation for our team, and we remain committed to having a thoughtful and fact-based approach to wages in our region.”

Butler said the raises have no direct connection to SeaTac's $15-an-hour minimum wage. The vendors at the airport have experienced little extra turnover since that higher wage rule went into effect for companies outside the airport but within the city.


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