The Secret to Airport Workers not Losing Your Luggage

BY Paul Solman  November 8, 2013 at 4:16 PM EST


In our fifth and final web exclusive on SeaTac, Wash.’s, ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage, we examine how paying airport workers a living wage could make air travel a lot smoother for everyone.

What does SeaTac, Wash.’s, ballot initiative to increase the city’s minimum wage have to do with those of us who don’t live in SeaTac? We explored one way SeaTac’s Proposition 1, approval of which was leading Friday, would impact travelers in this web exclusive video Tuesday. In short, airport workers would no longer be penalized for staying home when they’re sick since they’d get paid sick leave for the first time — meaning tray tables and seat cushions near you could be a lot cleaner.

But Proposition 1′s marquee initiative — raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour — could also improve the travel experience of fliers passing in and out of Seattle-Tacoma’s airport and surrounding hotels, says Simon Fraser University economist Peter Hall in Friday’s web exclusive video above. When workers are paid better, they’re more focused on the job (especially if that’s the only job they’re working), and their performance is more efficient. It’s an “efficiency wage,” in economics parlance, and Hall says it’s been shown to reduce incidences of damage or lost luggage and security breaches.

And if a higher minimum wage improves everyone’s travel experience, could it also be better for the economy as a whole? That’s the argument of SEIU Local 775NW President David Rolf, from whom we heard on Thursday.

But there’s plenty of opposition to Proposition 1, especially from business. Even small business owners, who would be exempt from paying the higher minimum wage, oppose the increase, as we heard from retired auto shop owner Mike West, for fear it could turn their city into the next Detroit.

After all, Washington State already has the highest minimum wage in the country at $9.19. But is that really a living wage? On Monday, we spoke with Dr. Diana Pearce, who developed the “Self-Sufficiency Standard” to help people in different areas of the country determine what it takes to survive on a bare-bones budget without private or public assistance. Watch our conversation with Pearce and find out what the Standard is in your area of the country here, and watch our full Making Sen$e broadcast segment on SeaTac’s debate below.


Paul Solman visited SeaTac, Wash., to explore the different arguments for and against the city’s ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.


This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown — NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.