Annapolis, MD – With today’s passage of the Secure Maryland Wage Act, contracted workers at BWI Marshall Airport and Baltimore Penn Station, who are paid as little as $8.50 per hour plus tips could see an increase in their wages. The bill, sponsored by Maryland Senator Antonio Hayes and Delegate Kriselda Valderrama was approved by a supermajority.
“The majority of the time we don’t get any tips, especially during the pandemic,” said Rudaina Jabai, a non-union wheelchair attendant at BWI Airport. “I even have to ask my family for help just to pay the bills.” Worse yet, Jabai takes care of her elderly mother and lives in fear of bringing home COVID and getting her sick because her job requires her to be closer than six feet to passengers.
The Secure Maryland Wage Act would help attract and retain experienced and better-trained workers at heightened-security transportation facilities. Under the bill, workers would earn $15 per hour by 2024 and $16.00 per hour and $1.00/hour supplement for benefits, or an additional $1.00/hour in wages in 2026.
Higher wages at “heightened security locations” are not new; examples of other locations where they have been applied include LAX, Oakland Airport, the Port of Oakland, EWR, JFK and LGA. Notably, nearby Dulles and National Airports adopted a wage policy because they concluded it would improve safety and security.
Living wages have been correlated with reduced low-wage worker turnover and absenteeism at airports, which allows workers time to develop their skills and become more experienced, productive and proficient. Higher wages have correlated with reduced turnover because as workers stay on the job longer, they are less likely to search for higher paying jobs.
Baltimore Mayor, Brandon Scott, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Montgomery county executive Marc Elrich authored a Maryland Matter op-ed urging passage of the bill. “How can we in good conscience turn a blind eye to the fact that so many essential workers put their lives on the line to keep us safe, but are unable to pay the bills? We cannot. It’s time that Maryland also harnesses these sites as engines of economic growth, by ensuring workers earn livable wages that allow them to better support their families and our economy. Our lawmakers must take this opportunity to catch up, not fall further behind the region.”
The Poor People’s Campaign recently included the bill as part of their “Moral Monday State Capitol Demands Delivery.”
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states, including over 20,000 in the D.C. Area and Baltimore, MD, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.