By John Lynds
Last week East Boston State Representative Adrian Madaro testified before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development defending his bill, co-sponsored by Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), to raise the base pay for Logan Airport workers to $15 per hour.
The bill, filed by Madaro and DiDomenico, would create a wage-floor of $15 an hour for baggage handlers, airplane cleaners and other low-wage workers who toil at Logan.
“Logan International 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,” said Madaro. “However, despite Logan’s positive financial impact on our Commonwealth, it is also one of the leading low-wage work sites in the region. 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.”
Madaro 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 practice by raising wages to $13.50 in 2017 and $15 by 2018 for these Logan employees.
“As public servants deeply concerned with the growing income and wealth gap between the very rich and the majority of working families, we filed these bills, which will establish a $15, an hour wage floor for aviation service workers at Logan Airport by 2018,” said Madaro. “The growing Fight for $15 movement has made $15 an hour a reality in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. It is also the minimum pay at leading companies across the nation. We believe Logan Airport should be next.”
Madaro said that substandard jobs provided by airport contractors cost Massachusetts taxpayers millions of dollars by burdening the state’s public assistance programs such as subsidized housing and Commonwealth Care. Hundreds of workers at Logan Airport choose to enroll in publicly subsidized health services because the insurance plans offered by their employers are either of very low quality or prohibitively expensive. Activists helping the Logan workers have found that the public subsidy to just five companies from taxpayers amounted to over $6.25 million since 2007.
In 2012, a number of employees at Logan showed up at Massport’s monthly board meeting to file several grievances against contractors doing business at the airport for unfair labor practices.
The testimony shed light on potential “sweatshop-like” conditions at companies that are contracted for a host of passenger services at Logan. Employees have been complaining that these companies have been cutting wages and laying off workers without explanation.
The worker’s took their complaints all the way to the state’s Attorney General’s office who sided with Logan workers against their employer.
At the time, former Attorney General Martha Coakley cited Huntleigh USA, a contractor that provides passenger services for airlines at Logan International Airport, for “failure to pay state minimum wage” to its wheelchair attendants over the course of two years.
The Attorney General’s Office began an investigation after several Huntleigh USA wheelchair attendants came forward alleging that they were being paid only $7.50 an hour, fifty cents less than the minimum required by state law, and were not making enough in tips to make up the difference.
On July 23, 2012, the Attorney General issued a $2,500 civil penalty and ordered Huntleigh USA to pay $11,185.85 in restitution to thirty workers who were underpaid between April 2010, and May 2012.
Rep. Adrian Madaro testifies before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development defending his bill to raise the base pay for Logan Airport workers to $15 per hour by 2018.