Contract workers at Philadelphia airport complain about wages

Even though Philadelphia has a “living wage law” demanding higher pay from companies with city contracts, not all contractor employees are getting the higher wages.   

The Living Wage and Benefits Review Committee, set up by a bill authored by Councilman Wilson Goode, held a hearing on the matter at City Hall.


Union official Briheem Douglas represents cooks who prepare in-flight meals. He says they aren’t being paid a living wage.

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“We surveyed over 250 airport food service and retail workers,” said Douglas. “The overwhelming majority of these workers earn between $8 and $9 an hour, falling short of the $10.88 provided by the living wage ordinance. Almost 30 percent of the workers we spoke to say they have eaten less than they should have because money was too tight at home.”

Chief of Staff to the Managing Director Brian Abernathy says many contractors do pay the higher wage but more than 30 city-wide ask for waivers from the living wage bill.

“Compliance is higher this year that it was last year, so I think that is one issue that we should continue to take a look at.”

Abernathy says there are a variety of reasons contractors cite when asking for an exemption. The requests cover people working for contractors all over Philadelphia, not just at the airport.

Airport officials declined to comment on the complaints, since they are not direct employees.

The Living Wage and Benefits Review Committee is expected to hold more hearings next year.

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