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Port Begins Work on New Job Quality, Workforce Development Policy

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February 11, 2014

The Port of Seattle Commission today heard from airport businesses and workers as it launched its public process to gather input on a new policy to support quality jobs and workforce development and bolster continued job creation at the airport.

“For too many workers, the path to the middle class has been blocked,” said Commission Co-President Courtney Gregoire. “The Port of Seattle has long been dedicated to supporting the creation of good-paying, family-wage jobs. Today, we start a process to examine what it means to work at our facilities and to explore opportunities to strengthen our community fabric across the region.”

The commission heard from both large and small employers at the airport, as well as represented and non-represented employees of airport-based businesses. Employers providing input included Joe Waller of HMS Host and Michael Workman of VIP Hospitality. Airport workers testifying included Jennifer Fulton, a server at Anthony’s, and Dana Stewart, a server at Bigfoot Food and Spirits. Other airport workers and members of the public attended to voice their views.

“I believe some of the biggest challenges in airport life are the pay, the lack of affordable health insurance, hours (as far as being odd) -- we definitely have to work around the schedule of each aircraft -- and the danger of certain positions,” wrote Elizabeth Tuani, a customer service agent with DAL Global Services, in her prepared testimony to the commission. “Despite these challenges, airport work has captured my heart.”

“My average sale is about 5 dollars,” said Kathy Taylor, President of Dilettante Chocolate, an airport tenant business. “That, coupled with the fact that I do not have the same degree of economies of scale and advertising that many of the national and public traded companies are afforded, I must forever be vigilant in monitoring our costs in order to achieve growth, even at a slow pace.”

Today’s hearing included a briefing from Mark Reis, managing director of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, who provided context on the operations, finances and employment landscape at the airport. While the Port of Seattle employs 1800 workers, including 1100 at Sea-Tac Airport, nearly 14,000 others at the airport work for 80 port tenants, 34 aeronautical contractors and related businesses. The total number of workers employed at the airport has fallen by a third since 2003, but concessions employment has more than doubled in the past ten years to 1640 workers.

According to a study commissioned by the port in 2007, more than 111,000 direct jobs are generated by all port-owned transportation facilities.

The Port of Seattle did not take a position on the City of SeaTac Prop 1 during the campaign. The port was named a defendant in the lawsuit to overturn the outcome of that election. King County Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled on Dec. 27 that the city’s initiative does not apply at Sea-Tac airport because the facility is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the port. An appeal has been filed with the Washington Supreme Court.

Future hearings on job quality and workforce development will be announced at a later date. The port commission is accepting written comments at qualityjobs@portseattle.org.

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