Phila. airport expansion must benefit all, including workers

Posted: January 08, 2013

AS PHILADELPHIA gets ready to spend billions of dollars expanding our airport, we must make sure that the project benefits the community and not just big business.

The Philadelphia International Airport is a major economic engine for the city and region. It supports over 141,000 jobs in the Philadelphia region, and brings more than $14 billion in economic activity to the area. But many of the jobs at the airport fail to contribute to our economy or our communities.

The workers who clean terminals and aircraft, push wheelchairs, help passengers with their baggage, and perform security services to keep passengers safe are paid as little as $7.25 an hour with no access to affordable health benefits or sick days. Because they earn so little, too many are unable to provide for their families and have to resort to taxpayer-funded assistance for health care and food. This is a disgrace.

Philadelphia's unemployment rate is well above the national average. It is vital that we ensure that people in our city who find work don't have to settle for dead-end jobs that fail to provide a path out of poverty.

Unless we make sure that workers share in the wealth they help create, especially at vital economic hubs like the airport, our city and neighborhoods will be unable to escape this cycle of poverty.

The good news is that workers at the airport are organizing and demanding respect for themselves and their communities. Airport workers, clergy and community supporters will testify in front of City Council members to make the case to expand the 21st Century Minimum Wage Ordinance to the airport.

This is the right thing to do. It's also good business. When workers are paid fair wages and benefits, they have more money to spend at supermarkets, clothing stores and other local businesses. They also pay more in taxes, and need less government assistance. All of this contributes to economic growth for our city and state.

Raising standards for airport workers could result in an additional $5.7 million in annual earnings for Pennsylvania residents and in the creation of more than 165 new jobs a year in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia needs this and we should make sure it happens.


Bob Brady represents Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District, which includes Philadelphia International Airport.

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