The move is a victory for a coalition of activists championing the cause of low-wage subcontracted airport workers and for Councilman Wilson Goode Jr., who has proposed amending the Home Rule Charter to extend the wage rules to subcontractors.
Voters will decide whether to make that change in the May 20 primary. So far, it's unclear how the mayor's new policy would interact with the proposed charter change. Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald yesterday declined to provide details about the order.
Laws establishing a "living wage" - a variable minimum wage determined by the cost of living in a given area - have been gaining steam across the country in recent years.
Many cities have passed living-wage ordinances for workers on municipal projects, and lawmakers in Santa Fe, N.M., even adopted a citywide law that includes private-sector workers. President Obama has made raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 a priority for his second term.
The Philadelphia law that established a living wage for contracted workers on municipal projects sets it at $10.88 per hour. The city Law Department last year said that, under current law, the requirement does not apply to subcontractors - an interpretation that advocates disagree with.
Nate Smith, a Philadelphia International Airport baggage handler employed by the subcontractor PrimeFlight, said a pay boost to the living wage would allow him to shop for his daughter at supermarkets like Acme rather than dollar stores and other cheap alternatives.
"It's about time, honestly," said Smith, 22, who makes $7.25 per hour. "I won't be worried about being stuck in poverty" if the policy results in a raise, he added.
Gabe Morgan, Pennsylvania director for the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, said that although he's "thrilled" about the executive order, the charter change is still necessary to make the policy permanent.
"Executive orders can change, and interpretations can change," said Morgan, whose union has been advocating for the change.
If voters approve the ballot question, he said, "that's the law of the land going forward, and it gives workers a clear way to make sure it gets enforced."
On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN