MWAA Skirts Minority Contracting Suppresses Wages and Undermines Security

October 16, 2010 

Thursday the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority held its 20th Annual Business Opportunity Seminar to attract minority and women entrepreneurs as well as local disadvantaged businesses (LDBs). The problem is its all smoke and mirrors with few contracts going to either minority or women entrepreneurs. The lions share are awarded to “local disadvantaged businesses,” i.e. the good old boys who consistently and overwhelming manage to beat out other qualifying bidders. LDBs usually skim off the cream of these lucrative contracts leaving the curds of low wages and inadequate benefits to seep down to the Black and Latino work force. Senator Rockefeller has recently called for a top to bottom investigation of MWAA contracting practices. This would be the first step toward necessary reform and real equal opportunity.

Senator Rockefeller should begin by reviewing security contracting. Infrastructure security at Reagan National Airport is supported by an unarmed guard force of 40 officers. Five years ago MWAA awarded contract oversight to a Maryland company Master Security. Prior to this award under the company Securiguard officers enjoyed satisfactory benefits and pay. Before the recession Master Security came in immediately cut pay and benefits with MWAA approval and has since refused to grant pay raises or cost of living increases during its 5 year tenure.

The officers organized a collective bargaining unit. Many work long hours sometimes 16 to 18 hour shifts in inclement weather yet they have no sick leave or night differential pay and nor other standard benefits enjoyed by most contract security officers. They have no pension or retirement plan. The situation at Reagan National is particularly untenable because the officers are paid well below the regions prevailing wage standard earning only $12.50 an hour while the prevailing wage is $21.26.
The Reagan officers are paid far below the prevailing wage standard. This deprives them of the ability to maintain comfortable living standards adversely impacting the region. Moreover paying low wages forces MWAA to rely on immigrant workers. This increased reliance diminishes the quality of infrastructure security with lower standards and greater exposure to threats from both outside and within.
MWAA enjoys a unique status an as a recipient of federal funds. It is for the most part a government contractor and as such should be a model employer yet it routinely violates prevailing wages laws. Prevailing wage laws set the floor for wages, overtime pay, training, pension plans, health insurance other benefits paid to workers on public financed jobs.
The cost of living in the Washington metropolitan region is high. The Reagan officers are demanding to be paid the prevailing wage to keep pace with rapidly increasing transportation and subsistence costs. Without the necessary increase workers will be forced to move outside the Beltway for cheaper housing thus incurring higher transportation costs.
MWAA by failing to observe the prevailing wage law jeopardizes airport security and diminishes regional living standards. Enough with the annual dog and pony show touting equal opportunity. MWAA should award contracts to minority and woman owned businesses as mandated by federal law and stop the charade.

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