Initiative asks for $15 minimum wage for some SeaTac workers

SEATAC, Wash. -- Unions estimate there are about 6,000 low-wage hospitality and transportation jobs around Sea-Tac Airport.

This fall local voters could raise the minimum wage for many of those workers, but Alaska Airlines and others are balking at the idea.

Washington's minimum wage is $9.19 per hour, but there's a move to raise that to $15 per hour for certain workers around the airport.

That increase would be for workers such as Chris Smith, who refuels planes and works two jobs to make his budget.

"One is to get an income of any kind, the next one is just to get any benefits," Smith said.

Supporters of the union-backed initiative claim they have enough signatures to put the minimum wage hike on the November ballot in SeaTac.

The plan would only affect hospitality and transportation workers not covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

For example, people who work at the big rental car agencies, the long-term parking lots or as hotel maids would get a pay bump. But those who work at local stores or chain restaurants like Denny's would not see a pay increase.

Non-union baggage handlers would get a pay increase, but union workers in airport stores and restaurants would not.

Alaska Airlines, the Washington Restaurants Association and two large airport vendors are asking a court to stop the initiative before it goes to a vote.

In a statement, Alaska officials said, "We embrace the public's right to vote on ballot initiatives. Several SeaTac businesses and many residents, however, have raised concerns that this initiative has serious flaws."

The lawsuit claims initiative backers have not collected enough valid signatures, and also argues that the initiative is too broad and contradicts with Washington law.

Smith says he just wants voters to have the final say.

"Should we be making something that is more of a livable type of wage rather than something to just have a roof over our head?" he said.

The initiative will face challenges in two separate courts on Friday. If the challenges fail, the SeaTac City Council will decide next week if the initiative will go on the November ballot.