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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

SeaTac Minimum Wage Fight In Hands Of Washington Supreme Court

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

Voters in SeaTac, Washington, narrowly approved a $15 per hour minimum wage. Now, the state Supreme Court will decide whether that law should stand, and if so, whether it should apply to workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Currently it does not.

The justices heard oral arguments Thursday.

Lawyers for the $15 per hour law and the City of SeaTac faced-off against lawyers for the Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines, the Washington Restaurant Association and airport food vendors.

Attorney Dmitri Iglitzin, who represents the Committee for Good Jobs SeaTac, argued a lower court judge was wrong when she ruled the city's minimum wage initiative doesn’t apply to airport workers.

“There is no evidence introduced by the Port or Alaska Airlines that this particular SeaTac ordinance in fact interferes with the operation of the airport,” he said.

But the Port of Seattle's attorney, Tim Leyh, argued that was not the test

“The legislature drafted a bright line rule here," he said. "If it’s within the airport boundaries, it’s the exclusive jurisdiction of the airport.”

The attorney for Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association went even further. He argued the $15 per hour ordinance runs afoul of federal law and should be thrown out in its entirety.

Before the courtroom battle even began, the union-backed “Yes for SeaTac” campaign was rallying on the steps of the Capitol with a little Bob Marley, some semi-coordinated chanting and plenty of speeches.

“We’ve waited and prayed for this day for six months,” Rev. Jan Bolerjack said.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."