Supreme Court Says Pay them $15

By /


Remember back in 2013, when the residents of the City of SeaTac voted to make the minimum wage for larger employers $15?  Following the election, the new $15 minimum wage went into effect on January 1, 2015, except for people who worked at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Why?  Because the airport is run by the Port of Seattle, not the City of Seatac. The new minimum wage was challenged by the Port of Seattle and employers at the airport, including the largest employer at the airport, Alaska Airlines on the grounds that the Commissioners of the Port of Seattle have control over the airport, and therefore the city’s laws do not apply.

Relying on a state statute that indicates that the airport “shall be under the exclusive jurisdiction and control of the municipality or municipalities controlling and operating it…” (RCW 14.08.330), the Port of Seattle and the airport employers took their case to Washington’s Supreme Court.  By a slim 5-4 majority, the Court ruled that this section of the state law is “ambiguous” since “the statute is unclear regarding what exactly the legislature intended to grant the Port of Seattle ‘exclusive jurisdiction and control over’…” In resolving this perceived ambiguity, the Court decided that the City of SeaTac’s new minimum wage law did not conflict with the state law giving “exclusive jurisdiction and control” of the airport to the Port of Seattle, and the new law will apply to airport employees.

While there is a potential for an appeal to the Federal Courts on a Federal labor law question, as it stands for now, airport employees earning less than $15 will be getting a raise along with back pay to January 1, 2015.


About the Authors

Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington has over 20 years of experience representing employers with union employees and those facing union organizing campaigns. Mike focuses his practice on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace. He has a broad experience conducting collective bargaining for employers in health care, construction, transportation, retail, manufacturing and the public sector.

Learn More