Wages Go Up for Some Dulles Airport Workers

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors today voted to expand its minimum wage protections to more contract workers at Reagan National and Dulles airports.

The wage rules will now cover employees of any business providing support services to airlines—from aircraft mechanical work to baggage handling—or selling concessions on airport property. Starting Jan. 1, those businesses will have to pay their workers an hourly wage of at least $11.55. In 2019, that rate will go up to $12.15; in 2020, it will be $12.75; and thereafter it will be adjusted according to a consumer price index. Tipped workers will be paid no less than $2.13 an hour. The board plans to review this change again in 2019.

Since 2002, some contracts have already been covered by the airports authority’s “living wage” program, which currently set a minimum hourly wage of $14.27. According to a presentation by the board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Labor Issues, which recommended the change after a year of deliberation, that policy currently applies to 10 contracts at the airport; the expansion will cover eight more at an additional annual cost of $750,000 to $850,000. The committee concluded that was a relatively small financial impact for the benefits of the new policy.

Previously, the living wage program only applied to certain contracts to which the authority was party, including custodial services, unarmed security, grounds maintenance at the airports and the Dulles Toll Road, as well as window cleaning at Reagan.

“Airport personnel – no matter their employer – are the first line of defense in a security network deployed to keep passengers and the public safe in an ever-changing and increasingly complex operating environment,” said MWAA Chairman William Shaw McDermott. “This policy, which is grounded in the need to ensure that competitive wages are paid by employers of airport workers, is a sound business and economic decision that supports the Airports Authority’s mission of providing safe, secure airports for the traveling public.”

Governor Terry McAuliffe and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released a joint statement applauding the decision. They said it would increase wages for over 4,500 employees.

The change comes after recommendations by the Service Employees International Union and workers’ advocate organization Unite Here. The SEIU had recommended a rate of $15.14 by July 2019, with an additional $2.93 hourly health benefit supplement, for a total hourly wage of $18.07. The airports authority’s new wage is regardless of other benefits the employer may provide.

The MWAA board met today at Dulles Airport. The board usually meets at the authority’s headquarters in D.C., but the authority is in the process of relocating its headquarters to Arlington.


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