News from the MAC Chair

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Chair Rick King

This is the first of what will be quarterly policy-related communications from me as Chair of the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

As you might be aware, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is a heavily integrated community with hundreds of businesses and a total workforce of more than 21,000 people all working to make the airport function well. Those employees reside in hundreds of communities in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, with the largest concentrations residing in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. The airport attracts more than 38 million travelers each year and generates nearly $16 billion for the area economy.

MSP is widely acknowledged to be one of the nation’s best airports and we want to keep it that way.

Many things go into creating and maintaining a thriving airport: abundant air service; spacious facilities; efficient operations; and high-quality services and amenities. The core of any airport’s success, though, are the people who work every day to make all that possible, particularly the people whose jobs directly impact travelers’ experience at MSP.

For that reason, the MAC works to attract and retain talent throughout the MSP Airport community, not just at the MAC. Our board has been discussing MSP employee wages for the last year, which I’ll relay details about shortly. For context, it’s important first to share the variety of ways we have invested in MSP’s workforce historically: 

  • The MAC partners with private businesses and governmental agencies at MSP to conduct job fairs for a wide range of positions. We also host an MSP Airport jobs board people can search to identify open positions at a variety of organizations. Recognizing that language can be a barrier to success, the MAC also offers English as a Second Language training at no cost to MSP employees or their employers.
  • High quality customer service is key, so the MAC enlists the help of “mystery shoppers” who pose as customers at airport shops and restaurants and rate their experience there, with reward incentives offered to employees providing exemplary service. In addition, the MAC administers an airport-wide Service Hero program to select and reward employees who most exemplify the MAC’s vision of providing people’s best airport experience.
  • Representatives from a cross-section of the MSP Airport community participate in the Customer Service Action Council, which reviews data from a variety of sources to identify opportunities for improvement and work collaboratively to address them. The MAC developed breakrooms for use by MSP employees as a result of CSAC discussions, providing comfortable spaces for scheduled work breaks.
  • Beginning in 2015, the MAC required companies holding a limited airside or commercial services license agreement from the MAC to pay their employees at a rate least $1 per hour above the Minnesota state minimum wage and to offer paid leave and retention benefits.

Now the MAC board is discussing a potential minimum wage for a broader swath of MSP workers. Competitive wages are an important element in airport businesses’ ability to attract and retain the best workers. MSP is located adjacent to the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, both of which have established paths toward a $15 minimum wage and helped define what it takes to remain competitive.

In April 2019, the Metropolitan Airports Commission began gathering and assessing information about how those cities and some airports have approached establishing a minimum wage – and discussing the best way to do so at MSP. The issue has been a frequent agenda topic at public meetings of the MAC board or its committees since then.

The MAC board asked staff to develop a minimum wage ordinance for consideration and staff introduced the first draft in September. That same month, we held an evening public listening session to ensure all interested parties had an opportunity to be heard on the topic. We surveyed businesses and retained an economic expert to ensure we fully understand how a minimum wage at MSP might impact them. And we will hold a formal public hearing on a minimum wage ordinance in early 2020.

If ultimately approved by the MAC board, the ordinance would establish phasing for minimum wage adjustments. A wide range of employees providing services that materially affect MSP passengers and airline operations could be covered, including those who:

  • service aircraft on the ground
  • provide in-terminal and passenger handling services
  • perform in-flight catering services
  • clean aircraft and terminal facilities
  • work in MSP shops and restaurants
  • conduct non-federal security services for passengers

In January, a committee of the MAC board will hear the results of the employer survey. The draft ordinance will become the subject of a formal public hearing on January 21, along with a written public comment period, during which all interested parties are again invited to provide feedback.

Investing in talent is key to operating a safe, efficient, customer-focused airport. The MAC has a long history of doing so, and the current conversation about ensuring competitive wages is only the latest example of our efforts to maintain MSP’s reputation as one of the nation’s best airports.

All my best,

Rick King Signature