After a three-year campaign, over 2,000 union and non-union contracted workers at BWI Marshall Airport and Baltimore Penn Station, who earn as little as $8.50 per hour plus tips will see their hourly compensation rise to $17 over the next five years under a new law, the Secure Maryland Wage Act. The historic bill, sponsored by Maryland Senator Antonio Hayes and Delegate Kriselda Valderramawill also eliminate tipped wages for wheelchair agents who say they often don’t receive any tips.
“This law is a blessing to me and my family,” said Doran Brown, a contracted wheelchair agent at BWI. “I will finally get the raise I need and deserve to support myself and my ailing mother who depends on me. I thank the leaders who stood with us and congratulate all of my coworkers who now are on a path to a living wage.”
Under the first-of-its-kind bill, the overwhelmingly Black and immigrant workers will start earning $13.50 per hour on January 1, 2022, and see yearly increases up to $16.00 per hour, plus $1.00/hour supplement for benefits, or an additional $1.00/hour in wages for a combined $17.00/hour total compensation in 2026.
The workers covered include janitors, non-TSA security officers, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, passenger service agents, ramp workers, baggage handlers, and ticket and line agents among others.
The Secure Maryland Wage Act aims to attract and retain experienced and better-trained workers at heightened-security transportation facilities. Higher wages at “heightened security locations” are not new; examples of other locations where they have been applied include LAX, Oakland Airport, the Port of Oakland, EWR, JFK, and LGA. Notably, nearby Dulles and National Airports adopted a wage policy because they concluded it would improve safety and security.
Living wages have been correlated with reduced low-wage worker turnover and absenteeism at airports, which allows workers time to develop their skills and become more experienced, productive and proficient. Higher wages have correlated with reduced turnover because as workers stay on the job longer, they are less likely to search for higher-paying jobs.
Baltimore Mayor, Brandon Scott, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Montgomery county executive Marc Elrich authored a Maryland Matter op-ed urging passage of the bill. The Poor People’s Campaign also included the bill as part of their “Moral Monday State Capitol Demands Delivery.”
For three years, workers phone banked Maryland officials, lobbied, shared their stories during town hall meetings both virtually and in person, and testified at hearings.