The Fight For 15 At MSP Airport

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In early 2015 a fight was raging at the airport between workers on the one side and large corporations and their political supporters on the other over what the minimum wage would be for airport workers. Ultimately, workers were only able to wrest one dollar per hour above the Minnesota state minimum wage ($9.65) from the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC). Governor Dayton short circuited the fight by throwing his weight behind a proposal for $10.65/hour.

The door, however, had been cracked open for expanding the fight for 15 to Minneapolis, culminating in a hard-fought victory 2 years later. The summer of 2017 saw St Paul unions, CTUL, 15 Now, Working America and others joined the minimum wage struggle with victory in that city in late 2018. 

This working-class struggle has now come full circle. Under heavy pressure from thousands of union and non-union airport workers, many making less than $15/hour, the MAC has constructed an ordinance that would put airport workers on a schedule to make at least $15 by the summer of 2022, the same timeline as the City of Minneapolis.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. With the figures like Minneapolis Downtown Council President, Steve Kramer, on the MAC, it should come as no surprise that the ordinance seeks a tip penalty for airport servers and to exempt union workers who make less than 15. 

Mobilizing against these carve-outs is the MSP Airport Workers Council. Formed a year ago, the Council has brought together UNITE-HERE Local 17, Teamsters Local 120, SEIU Local 26 and Delta workers under the flag of the Machinists Union. Airport workers have been showing up for each other, from the contract fight for Sky Chef catering workers to organizing at Delta Air Lines to the fight for 15.

History in Minneapolis and St. Paul shows us that corporate interests will fight until the bitter end to weaken or defeat any minimum wage ordinance. That’s why we need a full mobilization of progressive forces for an upcoming public MAC hearing on the minimum wage. The hearing, where public testimony will be taken, is Monday, September 23 at 5PM at the non-union Marriott Hotel at 2020 American Boulevard in Bloomington. 

The Airport Workers Council is leading the way on putting teeth into the word “solidarity” and building workers power, but help is needed. Groups as diverse as ISAIAH, Jewish Community Action, CTUL, the Minnesota AFL-CIO and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have pledged turn out and testimony at the hearing, but Twin Cities Socialists need to show up in force for the next 15 Now battleground on September 23. Twin Cities DSA needs to be at the forefront of these local worker actions.         

– Kip H

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