Port to weigh PDX worker reforms

Port of Portland staff are continuing to work on an “equity” policy that could improve conditions for workers at Portland International Airport (PDX). The Port is a public agency responsible for the airport and marine and industrial facilities, and it’s overseen by a commission appointed by the governor.

At the Port Commission’s Jan. 14 meeting, Port assistant executive director Curtis Robinhold said the proposed policy would likely be presented at the Commission’s March 11 meeting.

He said the Port can’t set a minimum wage for airport workers because of a state law pre-empting local minimum wage ordinances. But the policy would likely include some “worker retention” language providing job security to workers when a contract changes hands. New restaurants or janitorial contractors, for example, might be required to hire from a pool of workers laid off from the previous contractor — if the Port of Portland adopts a retention policy similar to one in place in several other West Coast airports.

UNITE HERE Local 8, which represents some concessions workers at airport restaurants, has been calling on the Port to adopt such a policy.

On Jan. 8, UNITE HERE reported the results of a survey of more than 100 concessions workers at PDX. The union survey found that the majority make just above minimum wage. The median wage for non-supervisory workers like cooks, cashiers and baristas was $9.30 an hour. Just 16 percent got health insurance through their employer. Another 15 percent get insurance through Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, and 24 percent said they receive food stamps. And 27 percent said they had chosen not to eat when they were hungry in the past year because of concerns about money. The survey also found high turnover: 40 percent of respondents had been working there six months or less, and the median was just one year.

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