King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas issued a bittersweet decision today (pdf) that upholds most of SeaTac Proposition while ruling that the $15 minimum wage initiative does not apply to airport workers. If Judge Darvas's ruling survives the inevitable appeal, Prop 1's provisions will apply to about 1,600 workers at large hotels and car lots within the City of SeaTac, but not to the roughly 4,700 people who work for contractors, concessionaires, and car rental companies on airport property.
Judge Darvas ruled that state law preempts SeaTac's right to regulate airport property, granting that authority exclusively to the Port of Seattle. On first reading it looks like a fairly well researched and considered opinion, but I reserve my judgement until I have time to do a more thorough analysis.
While this is surely disappointing for airport workers, it's great news for low wage workers fighting to pass a $15 minimum wage here in Seattle. Judge Darvas dismissed nearly all of the plaintiffs' remaining arguments, thus clearing the way for municipalities like Seattle to set their own minimum wage standards within their own jurisdictions. So again, assuming this ruling is upheld, there does not appear to be a legal obstacle toward passing a $15 minimum wage in Seattle.
As for airport workers, it's time to apply pressure to our elected Port of Seattle commissioners. Repeatedly over the the past few years, commissioners have argued that the port lacks the authority to set a minimum wage. Now that a court has said otherwise, there are no more excuses for failing to address this inequity directly.