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Miami-Dade Commission Approves Extension Of Living Wage Ordinance To Airport Workers

Sam Turken
The Miami-Dade County Commission approved a proposal on Tuesday to extend the county's living wage ordinance to concession workers at Miami International Airport.

The Miami-Dade County Commission approved on Tuesday a proposal that would extend the county's living wage ordinance to concession workers at Miami International Airport.

Under the new proposal, the workers will join other employees at the airport—like janitors—who already make the county's living wage. 

"What really counts is the supporting of our workers to make sure that they can have a better salary so they can live in a better condition than having to have two or three jobs," said commissioner Jose Diaz, who was one of the extension's sponsors. 

Still, some commissioners want the living wage law to apply to tenants of county-owned property outside the airport. 

Until now, businesses renting space at the airport and other county facilities have been excluded from the living wage ordinance. The law requires Miami-Dade workers or employees who work for companies that contract with the county to make at least $12.63 per hour with qualifying health benefits or $15 without benefits. 

The approval of the proposal comes weeks after Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed another law that would have required all private tenants of county-owned property to pay living wages. Gimenez said such a measure would hurt the county's ability to attract new business. The commission failed to override his veto. 

Commissioner Barbara Jordan joined Diaz as a sponsor of the new and more narrow proposal. She said Gimenez has agreed to support it. She plans to ultimately introduce another law that would extend the ordinance to all other workers on county property outside the airport.

The current measure "is a step at a time," she said. "Why would I deprive the opportunity for at least 2,000 employees to get it now?" 

Concession workers who attended the meeting on Tuesday cheered as the commissioners approved the new proposal. Wendi Walsh, the secretary and treasurer of Unite Here Local 355, which is representing the workers, said she is confident the proposal will pass a final commission vote on July 24. 

"It's been years in the making. We've been waiting for this moment for so long," she said. 

As the commission was voting on the proposal, other airport workers rallied outside the government center. Ana Tinsly, an organizer with 32 BJ SEIU—the union representing the workers—said the protest was in support of a separate measure that will force new airline contractors to retain existing employees at the airport.

The measure, which is sponsored by commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, will be up for a vote July 24. 

This story has been updated to correct the misspelling of Ana Tinsly's last name. 

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