Miami-Dade County

This Miami airport worker puts in 17-hour days at two jobs. He might get a raise.

Hiram Rodriguez told Miami-Dade commissioners on July 24, 2018, he works two jobs at Miami International Airport but the pay isn't enough to get by. Backed by the Unite Here labor union, he urged commissioners to approve a living-wage rule at MIA requiring retailers, restaurants and other vendors to pay workers a living wage, currently at about $15 an hour. The measure passed.
Hiram Rodriguez told Miami-Dade commissioners on July 24, 2018, he works two jobs at Miami International Airport but the pay isn't enough to get by. Backed by the Unite Here labor union, he urged commissioners to approve a living-wage rule at MIA requiring retailers, restaurants and other vendors to pay workers a living wage, currently at about $15 an hour. The measure passed. dhanks@miamiherald.com

Before Miami-Dade commissioners voted to extend the county’s living-wage rules to shops, restaurants and other vendors at Miami International Airport, they heard Hiram Rodriguez’s account of working two jobs there and barely getting by.

“I have two uniforms to work at the airport,” he said in Spanish, as a translator supplied the English version. “And I take two checks home. They are not enough.”

Rodriguez said he arrives at MIA every morning at 4 to work a warehouse job until 2 in the afternoon, takes an hour break, then starts working as a barback until his shift ends at 10 p.m. Both pay less than $15.38 an hour, the required minimum for employers governed by the county’s living-wage rules.

Passed in 1999, the rules apply only to companies doing work directly for Miami-Dade and in other contracts where the county exercises its leverage as one of the region’s largest buyers of goods and services. Labor groups and unions have been pushing Miami-Dade to expand the rules to cover county tenants — businesses that rent space in Miami-Dade buildings.

After county commissioners narrowly approved that broad expansion in May, Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the legislation but suggested narrower rules to cover the airport alone. Other airports, including Fort Lauderdale, already have living-wage rules for concessionaires.

On Tuesday, the County Commission adopted the airport living wage, sponsored by Commissioner Barbara Jordan. It covers restaurants, retailers and other vendors, but not the airlines themselves. It applies only to new leases, so existing locations won’t be forced to issue raises immediately. There’s also a provision allowing tipped workers to be paid a lower wage as long as income from gratuities pushes the total to the living-wage level.

Without living-wage rules, workers at the airport would be governed by the state’s minimum-wage provisions. Florida’s minimum wage is currently set at $8.25 an hour, and rises each year with inflation. The county’s living-wage rule allows workers to earn as little as $13.44 an hour if the employer provides health benefits.

Members of Unite Here!, a union representing airport workers, crowded the chambers wearing the T-shirts that Rodriguez wore during his address before the 13-member commission. Members violated chamber rules by cheering after the unanimous vote.

“You did it, you did it,” Unite Here vice president Wendi Walsh told the group in County Hall lobby. “You all did it.”

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