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Philadelphia Airport Lease Gets Council OK and Workers Get a Raise

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- City Council today gave initial approval to a new lease between Philadelphia International Airport and the nearly two dozen airlines that use the facility.

Included is a side deal that guarantees higher wages for baggage handlers and other employees of contractors.

The lease between the airlines and the city is massive:  a five-year deal with options for two one-year extensions, valued at anywhere between $2.75 billion and $4 billion.

Mark Gale, CEO of the airport (at right in photo), was thrilled.

"We believe that this proposed agreement means the continued growth and development for the airport and the city," he told councilmembers.  "It will ensure and create jobs.  I believe that it represents a good deal for the airport, for the city, and for all the stakeholders involved."

Councilmembers had refused to vote on the lease until a separate agreement was reached between the airlines and a union that hopes to represent employees of contractors.

That deal, dubbed a "labor harmony agreement," ensures that contractors and subcontractors at the airport will pay workers the so-called "living wage," currently $12 an hour.

Representing the airlines at the negotiations was Michael Minerva (at center in photo), a vice president at American Airlines.

"Starting July 1," he said, "all the workers at the airport will receive the wage of at least twelve dollars per hour.  We have always said that we supported the Living Wage ordinance and were willing to comply."

The labor side deal, Minerva said, also includes support for efforts to unionize those employees of contractors.

"There are provisions that we agreed to that make clear that we (the airlines) do not oppose those organizing efforts," he said.

Gabe Morgan (at left in photo), director of the union local SEIU 32BJ, also hailed the deal.

"This deal says that as of July 1, those workers will get the increase that we believe they should have gotten two years ago.  And contractors at the airport will now be required to follow all federal and local labor laws, or else they'll lose their contracts.  And we think that's a great step forward for these workers," he said.

Gale, the airport CEO, said the lease includes guarantees by the airlines to fund $158 million in airport improvements, including pavement repairs, door and window replacements, and improved restrooms.

The lease will come up for a final vote in City Council next week.



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