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Wage Gauge: SeaTac becomes a paycheck flash point

September 29, 2013 J

When U.S. Rep. Adam Smith was growing up near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, his dad Ben worked as a ramp serviceman for United Airlines. When Ben Smith died in 1985, the congressman said his dad was making $16 an hour with full benefits.

Today the starting pay for a ramp agent at Sea-Tac airport can be as low as $9.19 an hour, the state minimum wage, according to job listings. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticsdata show that the median wage for ramp agents in Seattle ranges from around $13.70 for laborers to about $18.50 for supervisors.

Smith, a Democrat whose district includes SeaTac, said this is why he supports a controversial ballot initiative called Proposition 1, which city of SeaTac voters will decide on Nov. 5. Among other things, Prop. 1 would require large transportation and hospitality companies in and around the airport to pay workers at least $15 an hour and give them paid sick leave.

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