On time - and just in time - city leaders sign new 5-year airport lease

Philadelphia International Airport

WITH MUCH fanfare, a new airport lease agreement came in for a final and smooth landing yesterday after a somewhat turbulent journey to Mayor Nutter's desk.

Nutter and City Council President Darrell Clarke jointly signed the five-year lease between Philadelphia International Airport and the airlines that use the city-owned facility.

Under the lease agreement, effective today, airline subcontractors must pay $12 an hour to about 2,000 airport workers, including baggage handlers, aircraft cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants.

Many workers already are covered under union contracts. This agreement, however, applies to service employees who work for low-bid subcontractors hired by the airlines and had earned as little as $7.75 an hour plus tips.

The agreement also requires airlines that fly through Philadelphia to pay as much as $2.1 billion in new rates and charges over the agreement's lifetime. That money will be reinvested in the airport, covering operating costs and funding capital-improvement projects. The agreement, with options for two one-year extensions, is valued between about $2.8 billion and $4 billion in existing and new projects, according to Nutter.

Both Nutter and Clarke touted the airport as a true "economic engine" of the Philadelphia region, generating about $14.4 billion in spending and more than 140,000 jobs.

"This new agreement will allow the airport to modernize operations so that we can continue to provide high-quality service to the more than 30 million passengers [who] travel through [the airport] annually to more than 130 destinations around the world," Nutter said.

In addition to Clarke, Nutter was flanked by several Council members who had helped guide home the agreement. It includes a "labor-harmony" provision designed to improve work rules and conditions. It also recognizes the rights of service workers to join labor unions. American Airlines, which merged with US Airways last year and is the largest airline carrier, initially balked at parts of the labor provision.

The agreement came after months of negotiations between the city, airlines and the Service Employees International Union, which hopes to unionize the subcontracted workers.

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