Victory at MSP, as workers win $15 after long campaign

MSP Airport workers march outside Terminal 1 during a 2018 demonstration in support of a $15 airport-wide minimum wage.

The working people who keep Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport running, who keep it clean and who have made it safe for travelers during the COVID-19 crisis are about to get a well-deserved raise.

Members of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) voted unanimously today to put the airport on track to a $15 minimum wage. The wage increase will start on Jan. 1, 2021, and be phased in over the next two years.

Airport workers, including members of UNITE HERE Local 17, Teamsters Local 120 and SEIU Local 26, have been pushing for a wage increase for years. Many currently make just $11 per hour, the current airport minimum wage.

The wage hike will put the workforce, predominantly immigrants and people of color, on equal footing with workers in Minneapolis and St. Paul, where $15 minimum wage ordinances are on the books.

In a virtual press conference earlier this month, after commissioners signaled support for the measure, Local 120 member Michael Bardenpratt, who has worked at Swissport Fueling for 22 years, gave credit to workers who had the courage to tell their stories at MAC meetings and public demonstrations, putting a public face on poverty wages at the airport.

“Anybody that works 40 hours a week should not have to live in poverty,” Bardenpratt said. “This increase could help working people get off of government assistance, lower their dependence on food shelves, reduce the stress of wondering whether or not they’re going to have enough money for rent, food, a vehicle. It’s going to give families better lives.”

Other workers, while relieved to see $15 move forward, pledged to continue fighting for more.

Glen Brown, a wheelchair attendant at MSP for the last five years and member of Local 26, said he found it hard to celebrate the wage increase in light of the risks he and other airport workers continue to face during the pandemic.

“I’m glad this is finally happening; I’m proud of everyone who’s been fighting for this change for so long,” Brown said.

“But when this ordinance passes and we get a higher wage, it still doesn’t match the risk. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. To overlook that, it just isn’t fair.”

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