Minimum Wage Globalization at the Airport

Thomas FrankNow consider the people who actually work in this environment. Do they feel like joining in the hymn to the market system? Well, there are the flight attendants, whose job was once widely thought to be glamorous but who are in fact notoriously overworked and who took a huge hit to their pensions in the big airline restructuring after 9/11.

Matters worsen as you descend from there, taking into account the people who handle the baggage, who help with the wheelchairs, and who mop up the platinum puke in the bathrooms. Years ago, according to a report issued by the Berkeley Labor Center, such work often paid a middle-class salary; today, thanks to outsourcing and other ingenious techniques of wage-suppression, the people who toil at these occupations can expect to spend their lives in a condition of near-poverty. There is a reason residents of SeaTac, Washington, the municipality that surrounds Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport and its several first-class lounges, voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour — and there’s a reason the entity leading the opposition to them was Alaska Airlines.

—Thomas Frank
First we kill All the Diamond-Class Five-Million Milers

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