Virginia lawmakers urge airports authority to improve worker compensation

More than two dozen Virginia lawmakers are renewing calls for the D.C. region’s airport authority to ensure adequate staffing and fair compensation ahead of Labor Day travel.

The letter, signed by 25 Virginia Democratic lawmakers and addressed to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority President John Potter, supports proposals to update the authority’s minimum wage policy and implement better worker compensation.

The lawmakers noted that MWAA’s minimum wage stands at $14.25 hour, which they argue is “far below a living wage” in the D.C. region — even with a rise to $15 per hour set to take effect next year.

“We are concerned this compensation level is too low to attract and retain adequate staff, especially given the grueling work that wheelchair assistants, cabin cleaners, and baggage handlers do every day,” the letter read. “We support significantly raising the airport minimum wage to ensure a stable, long-term workforce at Dulles and National.”

The lawmakers said contracted service workers at Dulles and Reagan airports blamed a lack of paid sick leave and inadequate employer-paid health care for a labor shortage — all amid a continuing risk of exposure to COVID-19 while pursuing their duties.

“We are also concerned that many airport workers lack basic protections in case of illness, despite working on the front lines of the pandemic,” the lawmakers said.

A similar letter sent to MWAA in 2020 deemed the absence of paid leave requirements a public health issue, due to workers being pressured to report despite posing a risk to other staff and passengers.

Asked for comment, a MWAA spokesperson said the authority thanked lawmakers for their letter and would respond appropriately.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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