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A King County Superior Judge struck down the voter-approved $15 an hour minimum wage for the vast majority of workers the measure aimed to help.
Judge Andrea Darvas’ ruling on Friday said the recently-approved measure applies to about 1,600 hotel and parking lot workers in the city of SeaTac, but that the city initiative does not have authority over 4,700 employees and contractors working within Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is operated by the Port of Seattle.
Darvas said the state Legislature has given municipalities like the Port of Seattle “exclusive jurisdiction” over their operations.
“The Washington State Legislature has clearly and unequivocally stated its intent that municipalities other than the Port of Seattle may not exercise any jurisdiction or control over SeaTac Airport operations, or the laws and rules governing those operations,” she wrote in her ruling.
Proponents of the measure say they will file an expedited appeal to the state Supreme Court, as expected.
In November, voters in the city of SeaTac narrowly approved the labor-backed measure, which would require a $15 minimum wage, a handful of paid sick days and other standards to around 6,000 workers at the airport and related industries, like hotels and rental car companies.
“While we appreciate the judge’s affirmation of parts of SeaTac Proposition 1, the voters approved the entire ordinance, not just parts of it. People working at the airport need paid sick days, tip protection, job security and a $15 (an) hour wage to support their families,” Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for Yes For SeaTac said in a statement.
An inquiry to Alaska Airlines was not immediately returned.
The challenge to the newly approved measure is led by Alaska Airlines Group and other businesses. The opposition put forward several legal challenges in their court filing, but focused on the initiatives jurisdiction, saying the city measure doesn’t have power over the airport, which is operated by the Port of Seattle. The Port of Seattle agreed. And so did the judge.
“We continue to believe that we have exclusive authority to operate Sea-Tac Airport,” Port of Seattle spokesman Perry Cooper said Friday.
Weiner said it was unfortunate that Alaska Airlines Group, which recorded a net income of $289 million in the third quarter of this year, is fighting to give workers at the airport better wages.
Washington has the nation’s highest state minimum wage at $9.19 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
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