Bids for a three-gate expansion at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s Terminal 2 have been delayed a month because of labor unrest between Sun Country Airlines and its unionized pilots.
On Monday, the Metropolitan Airports Commission voted to postpone consideration of the bid package until its June 15 meeting in light of ongoing contract talks at Sun Country.
Terminal 2 has 10 gates used by Sun Country, Condor Airlines, Icelandair and Southwest Airlines. The $35 million expansion, expected to be completed by October 2016, would increase the number of gates to 13.
Commissioners spent most of their meeting listening to public comments over a proposal to raise the minimum wage paid to airport workers.
They asked the commission’s staff to come up with language for a minimum wage that is $1 higher than the state’s. It would be applied to employees of third-party contractors at the airport. The commission plans to vote on the proposal in June.
Representatives of airline and business groups spoke in opposition of raising the minimum wage. The Service Employees International Union urged commissioners to create an even higher minimum, and several airport workers also spoke in favor of that.
Javier Morillo, president of SEIU Local 26, said that if commissioners don’t believe workers should be paid more than $10 an hour, they should be transparent about that. “Say it to these workers’ faces and vote on it,” Morillo said.
The commission asked staff to analyze SEIU’s proposal that the airport instead pay a prevailing wage, which would be equivalent to public work wages paid to the majority of workers in the metro area. The commission also will investigate allegations that sick-leave policies enacted in December are not being enforced.
The labor unrest holding up expansion of Terminal 2 is of a different sort. Sun Country, a major tenant in what is also known as the Humphrey Terminal, is negotiating a new contract with the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents about 250 pilots at the Mendota Heights-based airline.
Negotiations have been going for five years. Last February, the pilot’s union voted to authorize a strike, though no action has been taken. Earlier this month, Sun Country Chairman Marty Davis warned pilots that the airline may be “downsizing” if no labor accord is reached.
The delay “will provide staff time to analyze whether the additional Terminal 2-Humphrey gates would still be needed in the event Sun Country significantly reduces flights or ceases operations if it can’t reach a labor agreement with its pilots,” a MAC memo stated.
Sun Country has about a 7 percent share of passenger service at Minneapolis-St. Paul International, the airport’s third-biggest operator after Delta Air Lines and Spirit Airlines.