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Minimum wage for airport workers will rise to $10 per hour

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Employees at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport will see their minimum wage rise to $10 per hour later this summer, after a final vote Monday by the panel that oversees airport operations.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission voted 11-4 in favor of the proposal Monday afternoon. It calls for the minimum wage for airport jobs to always be $1 higher than the state-mandated minimum wage – which is currently at $8 per hour but will rise to $9 per hour on Aug. 1 – according to MPR News.

The higher wage will affect about 2,800 airport workers who are employed by subcontractors as aircraft cleaners, wheelchair pushers and electric cart drivers.

The Commission had taken preliminary action on the wage increase a month ago, and discussed Monday whether to go even further and require a $15 per hour minimum, as workers and union representatives have demanded.

The workers say they can’t support their families on $10 an hour, and many of them must work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

Boivin said the airport needs to remain competitive to keep airlines from moving to other airports in the Midwest, according to MPR News.

Airline representatives aren’t happy either, though. They've said it’s unfair for a local entity like the MAC to single out the airline industry for higher wages.

The four commission members who voted against the measure say they don't necessarily oppose a higher wage, but they don't think the MAC should be the one deciding it, the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes.

Gov. Mark Dayton threw his support behind the higher wage earlier this year, and Dayton has appointed 12 of the 15 commissioners.

One of the newest commissioners, Ibrahim Mohamed, is one of the minimum wage workers affected by the change. He drives an electric cart at the airport, and according to the Pioneer Press, he said the $10-an-hour wage is a disappointment to the employees.

"There's a big gap between what they're expecting and what they're hearing," said Mohamed. But he voted for the increase, saying it's "better than $9."

Terminal 2 expansion approved

In other action, the MAC also decided to move forward with a $26 million expansion of Terminal 2, also known as the Humphrey Terminal, despite the labor strife that threatens the future of its main tenant Sun Country Airlines.

MPR News reports the commission approved a construction bid in that amount to build three new gates at the terminal to accommodate expected growth in business.

Sun Country is in the midst of a contract dispute with its pilots union that has lasted for five years.

Last month the airline told the Air Line Pilots Association it has made its “last, best and final” proposal to the pilots, according to a news release, noting if a deal isn’t reached, it could lead to downsizing and possibly the end of operations.

The MAC decided that the gates would likely be needed to accommodate future growth, even if Sun Country's level of operations declined in the future, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reports.

Three other airlines, Southwest, Icelandair and Condor Airlines, fly from the same terminal.

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