Facing worker shortage, MSP's governing body considers pay hike

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's governing body, increasingly concerned about losing workers to cities where the minimum wage is higher, will consider raising pay at the airport in 2019.

Metropolitan Airports Commission Chairman Dan Boivin said there's a worker shortage at MSP in jobs ranging from concession workers to cleaners and baggage handlers. With Minneapolis and now St. Paul phasing in a $15 minimum wage, the airport's $10.65 looks unattractive in comparison, he said.

"We’ve been able to hold ground, but I’m very concerned," Boivin said in an interview. "With this healthy economy, it’s even more of a challenge to get workers."

Several commissioners voiced support for a minimum wage increase at a MAC meeting on Monday. Boivin said the panel will need to hear from employers, from workers, and see studies on the effects of a wage increase before deciding how big of an increase to consider.

HMSHost, a concessionaire and one of the largest employers at MSP, did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

The airports commission in 2015 raised the minimum wage to $1 above the state standard, which is now $9.65. At the time, commissioners did not think a $15 minimum wage was appropriate, Boivin said.

But in 2017, Minneapolis officials began phasing in increases that will push the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Last week, St. Paul officials followed suit.

Unionized airport workers rallied Wednesday outside Terminal 1 for a $15 wage. Some reacted positively to the commission's plan to discuss an increase.

"It would change a lot in my family. It would mean a step closer to stability and some security," said Glen Brown, who makes $10.65 as a wheelchair assistance driver at MSP, a job he's held for three years. "I believe that all the pieces matter. Unfortunately, we’re not paid like it."

Boivin said the state legislature should ultimately step in and provide consistency by raising the minimum wage across Minnesota. However, such changes appear unlikely to happen over the next two years because of divided government.

"If you start having a hodgepodge around the Metro area, it can be a little difficult," Boivin said.