Stories from the Port of Poverty

By Sage Wilson When 600 workers and community allies rallied at Sea-Tac airport on September 10th, it made quite a scene. We got noticed by travelers, by airport management, by reporters, and by other airport workers who were just doing their jobs that day.

When I arrived at the airport just as the rally was about to get underway, I overheard one worker who was checking bags look up from the task at hand for a moment to ask a co-worker: “Look at all those people — do you know what that’s about?”


“Yeah,” the second worker replied. “It’s about us.”

He's exactly right.

The rally was about us and every other airport worker, airport neighbor, and community member — because everyone has a stake in what kind of jobs are created at our airport. After all, Sea-Tac Airport is owned and operated by the Port of Seattle, a public agency whose official mission is to generate economic development and create jobs.

At the rally, we heard from a lot of people having problems with their employers at the airport. We heard workers who handle baggage, drive vans, push wheelchairs, and provide other services speak out about jobs that pay as little at $8.67 an hour with no health benefits. About jobs that don’t offer enough hours to make ends meet. And about bosses who hand out unfair discipline to workers who don’t have a voice. We even heard outrageous stories about people being denied employment on the basis of their religion or ethnic background.

KOMO news interviewed one of the skycaps who has been working at Sea-Tac for 30 years and still makes only minimum wage.

That’s why together, we call on Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani to change direction, live up to the mission and create good jobs. CEO Yoshitani certainly knows what a good job is, because he has one. He got a 9 percent raise this year, boosting his pay to nearly $400,000, making him one of the highest paid port officials in the country.

Now it’s up to the Port to do what it can to support good jobs for all workers — not just its CEO.