SeaTac Voters OK $15 Minimum Wage; Recount Requested

By a margin of 77 votes, residents of the Seattle suburb of SeaTac have approved a $15 minimum wage for workers in and around its international airport, officials say. The measure faces a recount and other challenges.

Officials in the Seattle suburb of SeaTac, Wash., say the town's voters have approved a $15 minimum wage for workers in and around its international airport, by a margin of just 77 votes, according to local government data.

Placed on the ballot by a citizen's initiative, Proposition 1 would raise Washington's minimum wage of $9.19 — already the highest in the nation. The measure still faces several challenges, including calls for a hand recount. If it stands, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

From Seattle, NPR's Martin Kaste reports for our Newscast desk:

"The election was three weeks ago, but the vote was so close that it's taken this long to call a winner. Opponents say they'll pay for a recount. Alaska Airlines is the airport's primary carrier; spokesman Paul McElroy says the company is concerned about wage inequality, but he says it has to stay competitive.

"'The number one factor that air travelers look at when buying a ticket is low airfares,' McElroy says. 'And as our costs go up, that does affect our ability to offer the best value and low-cost airfare to our customers.'"

"Alaska Airlines and some other affected businesses are suing to block the wage, arguing that it conflicts with state and federal laws."

The wage referendum was put up for a vote without the support of SeaTac's city council.

"An estimated 6,300 workers at 72 airport-related businesses in and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport would be affected," the council says. It adds that an analysis of the possible effects has not yet been performed.

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