Annapolis, MD – On Tuesday, Maryland Delegate Talmadge Branch will hold a hearing on the Maryland Secure Maryland Wage Act. The bill could improve wages to help attract and retain even more experienced and trained workers at sites with heightened security, including BWI Marshall Airport, Penn Station and the Port of Baltimore. Washington Dulles and Reagan National Airports have already adopted a wage policy because they concluded it would further improve safety and security and both have seen an increase in passengers.
The MD bill ensures employers pay no less than the combined Service Contract Act (SCA) wage and benefit rates for Guard I in the applicable county, which is currently $14.27 and $4.54. A higher wage is deemed necessary for heightened security locations because of their importance as crucial infrastructure and the unique security challenges these sites face.
“BWI is an economic engine for Anne Arundel County and all of Maryland,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Stuart Pittman in testimony. “This bill represents an opportunity to improve security, while also securing higher pay for valued workers.” Baltiomre County Executive, Johnny Olszewski is also submitting testimony in support of the bill.
“Transit and shipping hubs have a particular interest in reducing turnover as staff faces heightened responsibility to ensure safety, security and efficiency in their work,” said David Cooper, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute.
Higher wages have already been applied to similar “heightened security locations” such as LAX, Oakland, the Port of Oakland, EWR, JFK and LGA. Studies show that low wages are often a key factor in rapid turnover rates and are a significant contributor to poor performance by airport security screeners. On the flip side, living wages have correlated with reduced low-wage worker turnover and absenteeism at airports which allows workers time to develop their skills and become more experienced, productive and proficient. Higher wages have been found to correlate with reduced turnover because as workers stay on the job longer, they are less likely to search for higher paying jobs.
“We are on the frontlines and we are the first line of defense,” said Shale Green, a 32BJ member from Baltimore City who’s worked as a Port of Baltimore security officer for four years. “With so many trailers and ships, you never know what or when the next threat or target will be. In my experience, the lower wages mean that more people will call out because they have another job interview. You need to hire and pay those who are protecting our ports a wage that matches the seriousness of our job. When you protect your home, you don’t get the cheapest alarm system out there, you want the best.”
Menzies Aviation pays just $11 an hour to BWI airport cabin cleaners like Daijah Green who, like all airport workers, must be sure there are no weapons or anything that could harm people. “My job is important because I make sure the planes are clean and sanitary but also that they are safe for passengers. I work six days a week, but I still struggle to support my daughter as a single mother on this income.”
BWI, the region’s busiest airport continues to grow and produces a total economic impact of $9.3 billion. The Port of Baltimore set a new record for the amount of international cargo it handled in 2019. Yet many of the very workers who help make these sites profitable in the first place, struggle to make ends meet and are sometimes forced to rely on taxpayer funded programs. Two weeks ago, the Senate held a hearing on its version of the bill sponsored by Antonio Hayes. Last June, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution sponsored by Councilmember Sneed supporting the Maryland Secure Wage Act.
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states, including over 20,000 in the D.C. Area and Baltimore, MD, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.