In response to low pay for workers and low service quality for taxpayers, about 100 local governmental entities in the United States have instituted living wage ordinances. Generally, these ordinances apply wage and benefits mandates for employees of contractors conducting services for a municipal government. Some of the ordinances also apply to employers who conduct business on government-owned property.
An innovative and far-reaching living wage ordinance has been implemented at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Nearly two years before September 11, 2001, SFO adopted a Quality Standards Program (QSP), which was designed to improve safety and security at SFO as well as improve the conditions of the SFO labor market. The program went well beyond the FAA regulations in place at the time, establishing compensation, recruitment and training standards for a wide range of airport employees whose performance affects airport safety and security. Two additional policies in San Francisco in 2000 also restructured the labor market at SFO: a Labor Peace/Card Check Rule and a Minimum Compensation Ordinance (MCO), which places living wage mandates into airport leases and service contracts not covered by the QSP.
In this study we examine the determinants of low-wage labor markets at the airport, the scope of the new policies at SFO, and the impacts of those policies on workers, employers, consumers and taxpayers, with special attention to the effects on airport safety and security. This study constitutes the first examination of the impacts of the policies. In this summary of our findings, we focus on the main findings of our study. The document that follows provides our full report.
To conduct the study, we carried out detailed surveys of airport employers and workers in the summer and fall of 2001, and we interviewed labor, management and airport officials. We also drew upon government documents and census datasets, the airport’s own security badge data, and FAA data on security at major U.S. airports.
Citation: Reich, Michael, Peter Hall, and Ken Jacobs. Living Wages and Economic Performance: The San Francisco Airport Model. Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California, Berkeley. March 2003.