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Port of Oakland Commission Gives Airport Concession Workers A $9.90 Wage Price Control - Tribune

Airport concession workers score 'living wage'
Vote guarantees $9.90 an hour beginning in May 2008
By Paul T. Rosynsky, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND — With few exceptions, all employees working concessions at Oakland International Airport's expanded terminal will be paid a "living wage" in two years, the Port Commission decided Tuesday.

The vote closes a loophole that exempted companies from the living-wage law if they had 20 or fewer employees. It guarantees a minimum wage of $9.90 an hour for employees with health benefits and $11.39 an hour for those without.

The action came as the port seeks a new company to build and operate concessions inits two existing terminals and its Terminal 2 expansion, expected to open later this year.

Advocates of the law were concerned the new company would subcontract its concessions to smaller businesses to circumvent living-wage requirements.

Port officials agreed that everyone working at the airport should get a fair wage.
"We believe the concessionaires work in a controlled market; they have an advantage for greater profit," said Bernida Reagan, the port's director of social responsibility. "We think that profit should be shared with the workers."

Despite the new rule, not everyone serving a beer or selling a newspaper at the airport will be covered.

An exemption clause allows smaller companies to seek a waiver if they can prove financial hardship by paying a living wage.

But to get that waiver, the company would have to disclose its finances — including pay and benefits for the top five employees — and a balance sheet showing exactly how much it made and lost during the year.

Companies with 20 or fewer employees now operating in the airport will be exempted from the rule changeuntil May 2008, when the current master concessionaire contract expires. Port officials said there are not many such small companies, though.

Nevertheless, labor leaders cheered the decision and said it shows their hard-fought campaign to institute a living wage at the Port of Oakland has paid off.

"We didn't want the new contract to be used as an opportunity to go around the living wage," said Amaha Kassa, executive director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. "In the end, it was the decision of the port's social responsibility department. They are doing a good job."
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