Hundreds of Minnesotans came to the Bloomington Airport Marriott hotel Monday evening to support the proposed plan of increasing the minimum wage at the MSP Airport to $15 per hour. Normally held at the Airport commission offices, this meeting was moved to the hotel conference room to accommodate the anticipated overflow crowd. 

Before the hearing a group of airport workers hosted a press conference where they shared their reasons for attending the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) public hearing in support of $15 minimum wage with no carve outs and no exemptions. 

Roosevelt Muhammad, a single father, member of SEIU Local 26 and a cart driver for Prospect at MSP where he has worked for five years, shared what he felt this would mean to airport employees. 

“Despite being great at my job where I’ve won multiple customer service awards, and working for an airport that wins national awards while bringing in billions in profits for airlines, myself and my co-workers are paid less than $11 per hour. With a more fair slice of the pie, I could expand what is possible for myself and my daughter,” said Muhammad. “We need $15 for all MSP airport workers, and we need it now. No carveouts, no exceptions. No more delays.”

Another worker sharing his views on the proposal was Herbert Lubega, a cook at MSP for Midfield and member of UNITE HERE Local 17

“To make ends meet I have to work two jobs. Because of this reality I am rarely able to see my kids and family,” said Lubega. “One job should be enough. That’s why we need $15 for ALL workers at MSP!”

It is expected that thousands of workers would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $15 at the airport, pumping tens of million into the Twin Cities economy through wage increases. The city of St. Paul passed a phased-in $15 minimum wage last year, following the city of Minneapolis passing a similar ordinance in 2017. The MSP Airport is its own jurisdiction, so the minimum wage laws passed by the cities that border the airport do not cover it. Neither city included a tip penalty or CBA carve out in their ordinance.  

Over 50 people from the crowd chose to speak at the hearing and every single speaker supported a $15 minimum wage with no carve outs or exemptions. Many speakers stated that the airport has received many awards and it’s these workers who are responsible for this recognition and therefore feel they deserve the best plan possible.

Groups represented at the hearing included SEIU Local 26, UNITE HERE Local 17, IAM Delta Workers Unite, Teamsters Local 120, Jewish Community Action, TakeAction Minnesota, Faith in Minnesota, ROC MN, elected officials and more. MSP workers at the hearing do various jobs that make sure the airport runs, including: cart drivers, ramp workers, wheelchair agents, cabin cleaner, servers, bag runners, servers, car check agents, cooks and more. 

The hearing came shortly after the MAC introduced a draft ordinance that would follow the lead of Minneapolis and St. Paul and raise the wage floor to $15 to help the airport address the chronic challenge of understaffing at MSP.

Several speakers spoke out about enforcement mechanisms pointing to the Minneapolis ordinance. It is focused on accessible ways of reporting violations so that they don’t face retaliation for reporting. 

Amanda Otero from Take Action Minnesota encouraged the commission to consider some specific changes to the plan. 

“Explicitly defining independent contractors. Putting the burden of information gathering on the enforcement agency not the complainant and ensuring anonymity. We urge you to change the ordinance so that the  employee does not first need to communicate with the employer in an attempt to solve an issue as that would preclude anonymity”

Speakers emphatically supported the proposed increase to $15 with some arguing that perhaps $15 is not enough. The speakers made clear their support for raising wages and also highlighted their opposition to any carve outs or exemptions like a tip penalty or Collective Bargaining Agreement exemption. If the CBA exemption was included over a thousand workers would potentially be excluded from the minimum wage increase.  

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