Doran Brown, a contracted wheelchair agent at BWI Marshall Airport in Baltimore, woke up Tuesday morning with a new outlook and the promise of a much bigger paycheck.

Following a three-year campaign, Brown and over 2,000 union and non-union contracted workers at BWI Marshall Airport and Baltimore Penn Station who earn as little as $8.50 per hour plus tips will see their hourly compensation rise to $17 in five years.

The higher salary is a result of the Secure Maryland Wage Act, a new law sponsored by Maryland Sen. Antonio Hayes and Del. Kriselda Valderrama.

According to a news release, the bill will also eliminate tipped wages for wheelchair agents who say they often don’t receive any tips.

“This law is a blessing to my family and me,” Doran Brown, a contracted wheelchair agent at BWI, stated in the news release.

“I will finally get the raise I need and deserve to support myself and my ailing mother who depends on me,” Brown remarked.

Maryland officials call the bill a first-of-its-kind measure.

It ensures that the predominantly Black and immigrant workers at BWI and Penn Station will start earning $13.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2022.

The workers will see yearly increases up to $16 per hour, plus $1 per hour supplement for benefits, or an additional $1 per hour in wages for a combined $17 per hour total compensation in 2026.

The workers covered include janitors, non-TSA security officers, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, passenger service agents, ramp workers, baggage handlers, and ticket and line agents.

“The Secure Maryland Wage Act aims to attract and retain experienced, and better-trained workers at heightened-security transportation facilities,” officials wrote in the release.

Higher wages at “heightened security locations” are not new, they argued, citing examples of other locations where they have been applied like Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and the Port of Oakland.

Nearby Dulles and National airports adopted a wage policy because they concluded it would improve safety and security, officials stated.

The bill’s sponsors noted in the release that living wages had been correlated with reduced low-wage worker turnover and absenteeism at airports.

They said that allows workers time to develop their skills and become more experienced, productive, and proficient.

“Higher wages have correlated with reduced turnover because as workers stay on the job longer, they are less likely to search for higher-paying jobs,” the lawmakers stated.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich authored a Maryland Matters op-ed urging passage of the bill.

The Poor People’s Campaign also included the bill as part of their “Moral Monday State Capitol Demands Delivery.”

According to the release, for three years, workers phone banked Maryland officials, lobbied, shared their stories during town hall meetings virtually and in-person, and testified at hearings.

“I thank the leaders who stood with us and congratulate all of my coworkers who now are on a path to a living wage,” Brown concluded.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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