LETTER: ‘How is it helpful to criticize businesses in our own community?’

Dear Editor,

I read with concern an Opinion article published in the August 21, 2012 Seattle Times by fellow SeaTac City Council member Mia Gregerson, “Alaska Airlines should hire contractors that pay a living wage.”

I want to clarify that as a council member, Gregerson in her article does not represent my opinion as a SeaTac Council member.

This is my opinion:

  • The term ‘poverty wage’ used by Gregerson is an emotional hot button phrase employed by Working Washington, OneAmerica, Faith Action Network and Puget Sound Sage, using their freedom of speech to further their agenda and incite worker job dissatisfaction.

And here are some facts:

  • Washington State’s legislated minimum wage is $9.04 –it is not something that employers have ‘made up in their heads’ to try to demean employees.
  • Ours is the highest minimum wage of any state in the country. Per the United States Department of Labor website, there are 10 states, of which Washington is one, that have minimum wages that are linked to a consumer price index… Additionally, If Federal and State law have different minimum wage rates, the higher standard applies (http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/America.htm#Washington).
  • Los Angeles Airport is owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles; Sea-Tac Airport is owned and operated by the Port of Seattle. The two are not the same models, as the Gregerson article suggests.
  • During a meeting with the Port and Port Commissioners I learned that there are Federal regulations which prohibit the Port itself from interfering in vendor or subcontractor employee relations.

Now I am no ‘economic scholar’ either, but I have been a small business owner in this free country whose economic system is Capitalism based and which operates on the premise of hard work, risk, entrepreneurship, property rights and free market—and I embrace those economic attributes.

It is my opinion that this is the best country in the world in which to live. I have faith that our economy can turn around, but right now the road is rocky and there are people still losing their jobs. So ask yourself this:

  • How is it helpful to criticize businesses in our own community, like Alaska Airlines, who are keeping people employed–in our own community and beyond?

Those who are convinced that minimum wage jobs are ‘poverty- wage’ jobs might use their freedom of speech to lobby the legislature rather than stir up distrust between employers and employees, and create dismay, dissatisfaction and division in our community.

Pam Fernald
SeaTac, WA

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15 Responses to “LETTER: ‘How is it helpful to criticize businesses in our own community?’”
  1. Godwin says:

    Pam forgot to mention “9/11”.

    • Pam Fernald says:

      Dear Godwin,

      My letter is a reply to Gregerson’s Opinion article, printed in the Seattle Times, which has no mention of 9/11.


      (BTW, I submitted a ‘Letter to the Edito’r to the Seattle Times first. They would not publish my letter in the PRINT news, as Gregerson’s was published, where the same audience would read my reply.
      They would have published it on their ON LINE blog, however, to which I declined. So, I submitted a longer version to the SeaTac Blog.)

  2. gailey says:

    Right on Pam! If people want change, they need to speak to our elected officials. As you so clearly stated (using real facts), there is more to this issue than just “wants”

  3. Earl Gipson says:

    I am not surprised by SeaTac Council member Gregerson’s article in the Seattle Times (if she actually wrote it herself). This is just some payback for the all the money the unions lavished on her 2011 campaign, outspending her opponent 7 to 1 (and still only won by 31 votes). The Seatac Elections in 2011 set a record for spending, all from union backing. It dwarfed ALL other SeaTac elections.

    One can only assume Ms. Gregerson would like to run SeaTac’s highest taxpayer, Alaska Airlines (and probably greatest employment provider), out of town if she and her alleged poverty people don’t get their way. Alaska Airlines HAD a union for these jobs and went to contractors because of unfeasible demands in the current economic climate.

    I worked minimum wage jobs, sometimes two at a time when I was younger with NO benefits and job security? You’re kidding right? I thrived because I knew/learned how to manage my money, knew those jobs were not a career, and worked hard to advance/educate myself. This is the opportunity America offers our refugees and immigrants. We do not offer a standard of living commensurate with others without an effort on their part. Do you need cable TV? Must you have a cell phone? Are you trying to learn English? How many children would you like us, the American taxpayer, to support while you get your act together?

    To the workers I say this (especially to those new to this Country). You have only scratched the surface of the opportunities available to you here. You may love your jobs but if it doesn’t put food on the table you may have to find another one that does.

    To Ms. Gregerson I say knock it off. We got it. You ran for a non-partisan office, call yourself a Progressive (which has now lost all meaning) but are a Socialist through and through. That system has never worked and the word progressive has never meant repeating the mistakes of the past.

    To Alaska Airlines (and its contractors) I say this. If I get into financial trouble I’ll take two of those minimum wage jobs. I’ll be the hardest working SOB you have ever seen.

    Earl Gipson
    SeaTac, WA

  4. Aileen Fisher says:

    Isn’t it interesting that Councilwoman Mia Gregerson, a non-Union person, was supported by Unions during her last campaign? And isn’t it interesting that NOW she is castigating a business like Alaska Airlines, a business cornerstone for the Pacific Northwest and the City of SeaTac, for not paying their employees a sufficient wage? And isn’t it interesting that she failed to mention the excellent health benefits and perks such as free travel that Alaska Airlines employees have in her article?

    If she doesn’t like the federally mandated minimum wage, perhaps she should spend her time lobbying for the increase of said minimum wage.

    It is tough right now to support your family in this turbulent economy, and without doubt, even harder earning minimum wage. However, there are millions of Americans right now with no job that would love to have one of those jobs making $9.04 per hour with health benefits and free travel!

    Aileen Fisher

  5. Vicki Lockwood says:

    If Ms. Gregerson is going to share her opinions publicly and identify herself as a SeaTac Council Member then she had better start getting her statements cleared through City Hall, including the City’s Legal Department. Ms. Gregerson, spout off all you want as a private citizen, but the minute you identify yourself as an employee of OUR city your right to spew your personal opinions stops. This is not her first blunder as a City Employee ~ her record is long and amusing (if you live on the East Coast and she doesn’t represent you).

    Ms. Gregerson, it would not matter if minimum wage was $100/hour. There will always be a range of wages, with some at the top and some at the bottom. What would be the point of raising minimum wage if all expenses increased proportionally? Nothing would change. People who work minimum wage jobs need to understand that this is a start, a beginning, an opportunity to progress as additional competencies are exhibited.

    I wonder if Working Washington didn’t write the SeaTimes article for Mia. Nathan from Working Washington says about this article “… Mia was supported by many workers in her recent election because she committed to stand up for the 99%. She’s keeping her word.” Residents of SeaTac, this should make you cringe. Mia is not representing me or you! You should be concerned about the cost to you of additional paybacks Ms. Gregerson (and the two other electeds who let the Unions buy our SeaTac elections) will orchestrate.

    Ms. Gregerson, why don’t you hire some of these poor downtrodden folks to work for you? And feel free to pay them as much as you’d like over minimum wage to do unskilled labor tasks. We’ll wave to you as you go underwater implementing your plan.

  6. Deb R says:

    Why is Ms. Gregerson lobbying against Alaska Airlines? The airline does not set the wages paid to their contract workers, the “low-bid contractor” does. These employees are being paid minimum plus wages but what other government benefit are they receiving? Maybe we need to look at the number of non-English speaking, non-skilled refugees coming to our city. These refugees receive rental assistance, food stamps, medicad, utility assistance, free/reduced school breakfasts and lunches, etc.

    Alaska Airlines is not the only employer in Washington to utilize contract workers. Micro-Soft and Boeing use contract workers to name a few. This is an example of the wages matching the skills level required for the job.

    In July the union ramp service and store agent workers ratified a new 6 year contract with Alaska. This contract give the workers a 10% wage increase over the term of the contract, 2 long-term payments, and job security and improved productivity provisions.

    There are thousands of workers earinging minimum wage in this country. This is not exclusive to SeaTac. Look back at history, this is nothing new.

    Are wages in SeaTac paid to workers, contract or not, the business of the city council. I don’t believe they are. If this is the opinion/belief of the entire council, they should all be recalled.

    The council needs to be sure where their loyalty lies – with the citizens that elected them or the organizations that paid for their shiny, slick campaigns. In this sanctuary county, we the citizens need to be sure the needs of the MANY, not the needs of the few are being addressed.

  7. Janice T says:

    As have some other posters, I, too, will point out that Ms. Gregerson received union support (lots) during her last campaign. I’m sorry so many of the voters of Seatac fell for the slick, glossy cards that arrived in the mailbox practically every day. But they did, and Ms. Gregerson is in payback mode. That said, she should NOT be using her position on council to express views not of the entire council.

    As for the wage issue, in my younger years I worked minimum wage jobs to put myself through college and pay my rent. I did not expect to stay in those jobs. I certainly did not expect pay raises that I had done nothing exceptional for. And darkening the door with my presence did not count. As an employer, I based raises on many factors: attitude, motivation, involvement. Darkening the door and performing only the basics merited a cost of living raise and nothing more. That’s quite fair.

    Minimum wage/no skill jobs are starter jobs, and should not be promoted as any more than that. What makes America a desirable country are the opportunities offered to those willing to extend themselves. It is not, and never has been, a country in which to sit back and gather proverbial gold off the streets. Many of my non-American friends have told me they never worked as hard as they do here, but the rewards are much greater.

    I do not understand why certain groups in this country would strive to dumb us down and encourage lack of effort. But then, I understand it too well. All animals will gravitate to the least amount of energy expended, a biological survival safe guard. However, complacent animals also are easier to manipulate. So, from a biological POV, those groups who profess to empower others by giving them everything actually are striving to control them with the least amount of resistance. Pretty scary though, huh?

    One final thought, airlines subcontract jobs to cut costs in order to survive as businesses. The alternative to subcontracting is to raise prices. Before the Ms. Gregersons of this world cry about subcontracts, they should ask themselves how much more they will pay for air travel.

  8. Susy says:

    Thanks Councilwoman Fernald for posting a response to Councilwoman Gregreson’s anti-business rant in the Seattle Times and thanks to those of you who have responded with your thoughtful comments. I concur.

    This is not the first time I have observed Councilwoman Gregerson’s anti-business attitude. Recently at a council meeting, someone representing the hotel/motel industry reported on the business climate and other issues within their industry. A question and answer period followed. Councilwoman Gregerson asked what the industry had done for the SeaTac community. Stunned, the presenter proceeded to recount the thousands of dollars paid into the City of SeaTac coffers by the industry – sales tax, property tax, etc and the thousands of jobs created by their industry, not to mention the thousands of dollars spent by customers who use their establishments. To me, this question, was a clear insight to Councilwoman Gregerson’s thought process.

    Not to say Councilwoman Gregerson never believes in businesses or capitalism, it is just crony capitalism.

  9. People may differ on how important good jobs are, but I wanted to point out that Ms. Gregerson is hardly alone in calling on Alaska Airlines to share its success with all of the workers who make it possible — there is a large and growing coalition of faith & community leaders who have joined the call as well. In fact, tomorrow (September 7th), diverse clergy including Christian, Muslim, and Sikh faith leaders will lead a march of more than 500 workers & community supporters to call on Alaska Airlines to make sure the workers employed by Alaska contractors to serve Alaska passengers have good jobs — that is, jobs that pay better than poverty wages and offer workers a voice in their work and a shot at a better future.


    • Inside Outsider says:

      Why don’t they acquire additional skills, further their education and get better jobs rather than demanding overpayment for minimum wage jobs? Why don’t you quit marching and start a school for them????

      • The only thing that makes a job like fueling an aircraft, moving baggage, or cleaning an aircraft cabin into a poverty-wage job is that fact that we let it be so. In fact, quite recently these were good jobs you could raise a family on, and as Ms. Gregerson pointed out in her op-ed, at other airports these same jobs for the same contractors pay much better — because that’s what the public demanded, and those are the rules the airport enforces.

        The fundamental issue is that Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle have created an airport economy that leaves thousands of airport workers earning poverty wages. If our airport depends on people to do these jobs — and it does — then the jobs should offer a decent living, decent working conditions, and yes, a shot at a better future.

        Our airport is publicly owned and it’s supposed to be run for public benefit. Many of us think it’s time we returned to that promise.

        • How about a public debate with Sage and Mia as one half that supports this activity. If Mia does not want to be part of this then how about Julia Patterson and Sage? I will be the other of the panel and bring a person of my choice. What do you think Sage?

        • Inside Outsider says:

          If these people have skills that exceed their level of compensation, then why don’t they go out on the job market and get employed by someone who will compensate them for their vast unused abilities? They’re not endentured servants! Also wondering why the paid union staff doesn’t cut some of their wages/benefits/expense accounts and give that to the downtrodden they march for?