Mass. airport workers join push for $15 minimum wage
BOSTON >> Lawmakers representing districts that include large numbers of Logan Airport workers are introducing legislation that would raise the minimum wage for baggage handlers, airplane cleaners and other airport workers to $15 an hour, the latest front in a national push for a higher minimum wage.
Sen. Sal DiDomenico, of Everett, and Rep. Adrian Madaro, of East Boston, both Democrats, joined members of the Service Employees International Union 32BJ in a rally Thursday in front of the State House, where workers told stories of struggling to support families while earning $11 or less hourly.
Speaking in Spanish, Cosme de La Cruz said he took a job working overnight at Logan for the passenger services contractor ReadyJet when he moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic, but he later needed to pick up a second job as well.
"I have three kids, and with $10.75 an hour, it is not enough to pay the bills, to pay the rent, and to take care of my family," de La Cruz said through an interpreter. "Nobody can survive on $10.75 an hour in this state."
The minimum wage in Massachusetts is currently $9 an hour, one of the highest wage floors in the nation. Under a law passed last year, it is slated to increase $1 annually until reaching $11 in 2017.
Gov. Charlie Baker was asked Thursday during a radio appearance about the push for a $15 an hour minimum wage.
"I think we passed a law to raise the minimum wage, over three years, to one of the highest minimum wages in the country, which I supported," Baker said Thursday during his monthly segment on WGBH radio. "You combine that with the earned income tax credit and the 50 percent expansion we got in that and Massachusetts, compared to most other states, is doing quite well by low-income workers."
Madaro, who joined the House in April after winning a special election, said he's filing the bill to raise the minimum wage for airport workers as his first piece of legislation because he believes it can improve conditions for many of his constituents.
"Knowing the personal anecdotes that I hear in my community, with folks working three, four, five jobs to make ends meet, having to choose between staying home with their sick child or going to work, because if they don't go to work they lose their job — that's not right," Madaro said. "There's no respect and dignity."
Citing steps toward a $15 minimum wage elsewhere in the country — including the passage of laws raising the wage for fast-food workers in New York state and for all workers in Seattle — Madaro said he hopes to see that momentum push Beacon Hill to action.
On Tuesday, shortly before Massachusetts fast-food and big-box store employees marched to the Statehouse for their own demonstration, the Labor and Workforce Development Committee approved a bill that would gradually establish a $15 minimum wage for those workers.
Opponents of the $15 wage say that it would be too costly for businesses, forcing them to drive up prices or cut their workforces.
According to the union representing airline workers, the wage increase there would cost airlines "pennies of every dollar they earn at Logan." Airlines currently outsource many of their passenger service jobs, such as wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners and baggage handlers, to contractors, the union said.
DiDomenico said that airline workers provide crucial services for travelers and called the proposed wage increase a matter of respect.
"What are they looking for? They're not looking for a fancy vacation," he said. "They're looking for a fair wage for themselves and their families."
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