Where are the Good Jobs at the Airport?

Aug. 23, 2011

by Julio Sanchez

SeaTac, Wash. -- Sangabo Hassan, Farhiyo Ahmed  and Mohamed Hassan joined together with workers and out-of-work community members to ask “Where are the Good Jobs?” at Tuesday’s Port of Seattle Commission meeting.

Port commission meeting
Port commission meeting

The question was particularly relevant because for the first two hours of the commission meeting, the Port Commissioners and a succession of bureaucrats touted the allegedly “Good Jobs” available at SeaTac Airport, which the Port Commission oversees.

From the perspective of these bureaucrats, comfortably perched in their secured, benefit-abundant jobs, things are OK at SeaTac. But from the perspective of the unemployed and the struggling workers who are desperately trying to survive with a low paying job—without benefits and often seeing only part-time hours—things look dramatically different.

For example, according to the bureaucrats, among the allegedly “Good Jobs” at the airport today is work for one of the many passenger, ramp and cargo handling services provider where a crew of two is expected to unload a 140 passenger plane and refill all the water tanks on that plane in just 1 hour—quite a physically demanding and pressure-laden job. The pay is often $9.25 per hour, just 58 cents above minimum wage. Even worse, some of these jobs do not allow vacation or sick leave during the first year.

These “Good Jobs” claim to offer benefits, but how anyone on this essentially minimum wage job can afford to pay the outrageous amounts required to cover insurance out of pocket for a family is beyond us.

Offering jobs like these to working families leads to a lot of frustration. During the testimony at the commission meeting, these emotions were palpable.

“Every time I apply for a job I am told there is nothing,” said Ahmed, a single mother of three. “We need benefits and we need good jobs.”

Herbert Bernard, a Bags Inc. employee whose hours have been cut to 20 per week with no benefits, spoke up as well.

“We need benefits and we need good jobs,” said Bernard.

Mohammed Hassan, an employment caseworker at the Somali Community Services Center in SeaTac, told the commissioners how he sees plenty of hard workers who are ready to put in long hours in every day.

“I have sent more than 10 qualified candidates to apply to open positions without getting a single response,” he said. “People working in the airport need good jobs with benefits so they can survive and have a better life.”

Working Washington will continue to ask “Where are the Good Jobs at the Airport” We are working on an agenda for the next Ports Commission meeting in September, and we will be asking that question again and again and again, until we get an answer.