Fight for $15’s next target: MSP Airport

MSP Airport workers and supporters march for $15 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Emboldened by minimum wage victories in St. Paul and Minneapolis, workers seeking a raise at MSP Airport used the busiest travel day of the year to inject new energy into their fight for $15 and union rights.

The rally outside Terminal 1 last Wednesday brought together the people who make MSP work: unionized janitors, servers, cooks, cart drivers, bag runners and other frontline staff. They marched outside the ticketing area, carrying signs and joining chants calling on the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to raise the minimum wage to $15 for all airport workers.

Glen Brown, a wheelchair assistant and member of Service Employees International Union Local 26, earns just $10.65 per hour working for airline contractor G2. At the rally, the St. Paul resident recalled watching his city council and mayor pass a minimum wage ordinance earlier this month – and resolving to fight for the same at MSP.

“We deserve the same pay and respect as workers in cities that border the airport,” Brown said, noting that U.S. airlines raked in $15.5 billion in profits last year – profits that “our work helped make possible.”

“There are thousands of us making around what I make, while Delta CEO Ed Bastian makes $6,300 per hour,” Brown added. “A $15 wage floor at MSP would mean stability and security for so many families.”


Although workers like Brown are pushing the MAC to follow Minneapolis and St. Paul on the path to $15, it was initially Minneapolis and St. Paul that followed the MAC’s lead in setting higher labor standards than the state requires.

In June 2015, airport commissioners approved a measure raising the minimum wage to $10 for most workers at MSP, which does not fall under the legal jurisdiction of either Minneapolis or St. Paul. That raise came on the heels of a measure passed in December 2014 requiring airport employers to offer earned sick and safe time benefits.

But historic $15 minimum wage ordinances on the books in neighboring St. Paul and Minneapolis are poised to erode airport workers’ minimum-wage advantage. That could lead to under-staffing, workers at the rally warned.

Advocates say nearly 3,000 workers would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $15 at the airport, a boost of close to $13 million into the Twin Cities economy for the people and families who need it most.

Feben Ghilagaber, a UNITE HERE Local 17 member who has worked in food service at MSP for 13 years, said she supports a $15 minimum wage because one job at the airport should be enough for workers to support themselves.

“When I see my co-workers working 16-hour days, I always wonder who’s watching their families?” Ghilagaber said. “Who’s raising their kids?”

Other unions that supported the rally included Teamsters Local 120 and the Machinists, which is supporting Delta Air Lines ramp workers organizing for a voice on the job at MSP and airports around the U.S.

“Delta Workers helped to start the movement for $15 here at the airport four years ago,” ramp worker Marty Knaeble said. “We will be there at the finish.”


  1. […] Now that the ordinance has passed, the 15 Now coalition will focus on education and enforcement in St. Paul, with an eye on taking the movement statewide. […]

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