Last month, community, labor and faith leaders came together to call for the City of San Jose to assure that it is truly building a better airport – by ensuring a living wage, establishing increased oversight of subcontractors, and guaranteeing the highest quality, most skilled employees serving the airport’s millions of annual passengers.
Stemming from a report by Working Partnerships USA which documented alarming security and retention challenges at Mineta San Jose International Airport, Vice Mayor Dave Cortese and Councilmember Forrest Williams asked the Council’s Transportation committee to consider extending a living wage to all airport employees. The report found that over half of airport employees responding to a survey weren’t trained in critical emergency procedures, such as facility evacuation. Additionally, while over half of employees earning a living wage had been at the Airport for over three years, the percentage of those earning less who remained that long was 6% or lower.
Members of the community joined elected officials in support of the policy. Pastor Kenny Foreman, of the Cathedral of Faith in Willow Glen, stated:
Our City has been richly blessed, and now should continue its leadership in maintaining the standard that has already been set; ensuring that San Jose will continue to lead the way in providing employees that serve the City a living wage -- including everyone who works at the San Jose Mineta Airport.
Wheelchair attendant Dwayne Green, an employee at the airport who earns a minimum wage, related his story, including being forced into homelessness for an inability to afford even a basic rent. “I struggled, I fought, and today I see a brighter future. For our safety, we can’t afford to churn through employees,” Green stated. “The City I live in and love cannot afford to lose good employees simply because they can’t afford to live here, to have families.”
Dr. Steven Pitts of UC Berkeley relayed the findings of a study conducted by researchers following San Francisco’s application of a living wage to its airport. The study found that the living wage did not negatively impact the function of the airport, and that cost to employers was less than a penny on the dollar. In fact, due to decreases in employee turn-over, some employers saw cost savings of up to 11%.
The Living Wage campaign will be discussed at the San Jose City Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee on June 2nd and will likely go before the full City Council in the fall.
Copies of the Working Partnerships report, the UC Berkeley study and event photos can be found at the campaign website: http://www.buildingabetterairport.com
Working Partnerships USA is a public policy and research institute that builds partnerships with community groups, labor unions, and faith based organizations to improve the lives of working families in Silicon Valley. For more information, visit the WPUSA website at http://www.wpusa.org.