Washington airports' contract workers win right to get a living wage

Baggage handler (ABC7 file photo)

WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) -- Many workers at Washington's airports will be getting a pay raise next year.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board of directors voted Wednesday to require companies doing business at Reagan National and Dulles International airports to pay a base hourly wage of $11.55 starting in January. The minimum increases to $12.15 in 2019 and $12.75 in 2020.

About 4,500 workers including wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers and toll booth operators are expected to benefit. Some now earn only $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage in Virginia.

The airports authority estimates about 14 percent of airport workers will be affected by the pay hike.

The contract workers aren't unionized, but two unions had been negotiating on their behalf. Workers have staged various protests over the last year to publicize their campaign.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a joint statement supporting the new wage policy:

We applaud MWAA for voting to increase wages for contracted workers at Reagan National and Dulles International Airports. Just as low wages for some can affect the entire region, so can higher wages. When workers make a sustainable living, they are better able to support their families and they can better support our economies through local spending.
In addition, by increasing wages for over 4,500 employees, MWAA will help reduce turnover rates and ensure that our airports are doing more to retain experienced employees who are familiar with critical airport safety procedures. Today’s vote will ensure that MWAA can fulfill its mission of operating safe, sustainable airports for the entire region.
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