Airport workers may get a raise following City Council expansion of ‘living wage law’

More people who work for contractors at Philadelphia International Airport may soon be covered by the city’s “living wage law” following approval by City Council.

The measure is designed to help out airport workers employed by small contractors. While rules now apply to contractors with 25 or more employees, the bill backed by City Council would extend it to companies with at least five workers.

Baggage handler Tamir Elliot says he can’t make ends meet on his salary.

“Baggage handlers help make the airport run, but we are treated like we are at the bottom of the barrel,” Elliot said. “I make $7.25 an hour and have four kids to support and I also pay student loans.”

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Not all the council members were convinced of the need for the change.

“I don’t think the way to go continuously is to turn low-wage jobs into better and better paid jobs because you are going to lose more and more low-paid jobs that way,” said Councilman David Oh.

Cheryl Friedman, who works as a wheelchair attendant and security officer at the airport, would be getting a raise if Mayor Michael Nutter decided to sign the bill into law.

“When I started 12 years ago, I was making $10 an hour. Now it’s down to $7.25 for wheelchairs, $9 an hour on security,” she said. “It’s difficult for me to live on this low income. I have 15 grandkids and six sons.”

Councilman Wilson Goode proposed the increase.

“It simply says if we are going to provide taxpayer dollars to contractors to franchises for leases and for concessions, we are not going to subsidize poverty wage jobs,” Goode said.

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