Mineta Airport is in trouble, and the city is struggling over what to do about it. The airport suffered more than the other two Bay Area airports during the recession, and it is facing a $1.3 billion bill for its recent renovation project. With one-third fewer flights than it had in 2007, no one is sure how it will make the payments.

One suggestion, currently being debated by the city, is lowering the living wage requirement for airport workers and privatizing police and firefighter services there. Mayor Chuck Reed supports airport officials in their efforts, saying that “It’s not the fact of the living-wage ordinance, it’s how it’s applied and how they have to deal with it.”

Union officials point out that both San Francisco and Oakland have similar living-wage ordinances in place, yet they have not taken the same hit as Mineta. On the other hand, while Mineta’s wages are $14.19 an hour without benefits or $12.94 if the employer provides health insurance and pays half the cost, Oakland’s rates are $12.82 and $11.15 respectively, while San Francisco pays $12.33 and $11.54, depending on the type of worker. It also has a separate health care requirement.

The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council is challenging the city on living wages. They point out that the proposed reduction would essentially mean a 10 percent pay cut for workers currently earning $27,000 a year. This, they argue, “would be devastating to hundreds of airport workers.”

Airport officials agree that this is an unpopular choice, but one that is needed if the airport is to survive. They are also calling on the city to relax its 11:30 pm to 6:30 am curfew so that more international flights can use the airport and for a restriction on building heights downtown. The first is being opposed by residents, who do not want to have noisy aircraft flying overhead at all hours. The second is being opposed by developers and business leaders, who say it would impede the city’s growth. That leaves the workers as the most vulnerable victims.
Read More at The Mercury News.