AmeriJet vs Living Wage Miami-Dade

Below you will find the 11th Circuit’s decision in the case regarding the living wage ordinance and a short article explaining the decision.

The Miami Dade living wage ordinance requires certain service contractors that contract with MIA to pay a living wage to employees who perform “covered services.” The services as issue in Amerijet’s litigation with the county involved cargo handling services (loading, unloading, and delivery of cargo for other airlines). These services are covered under the living wage ordinance.

Amerijet argued that because they are an air carrier, that provision of the living wage ordinance does not apply to them. When the demanded that they comply with the ordinance, Amerijet determined that it was too expensive to comply. They fired the cargo handlers and subcontracted out the work. Some of the workers who were fired sued Amerijet for the unpaid wages under the living wage ordinance. Amerijet settled that lawsuit but instituted its own in federal court asking the court to rule that the living wage ordinance does not apply to air carriers at MIA.

Amerijet argued that there is a federal law that trumps the living wage ordinance, namely, Airline Deregulation Action (“ADA”)(49 U.S.C. Sec. 41713(b)(1)). The ADA prohibits states and their political subdivisions, such as Miami-Dade County, from “enacting or enforcing a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier that may provide air transportation under the ADA.” 49 U.S.C. Sec. 41713(b)(1).

The 11th Circuit held that this provision of the ADA did not preempt (or trump) the Miami-Dade living wage ordinance. In order for a local law to be preempted the “service” at issue:

  1. Must fit within the limited range of services over which airlines compete (such as “physical transportation of passengers [or shipments], ticketing, boarding procedures, provision of food and drink, and baggage handling”)
  2. It must be bargained for (referring here to price bargaining not collective bargaining)
  3. The bargained for exchange must be between an air carrier and its consumers.

Amerijet argued that this is baggage handling and therefore should be preempted. The court rejected this because the “baggage handling” done by Amerijet was for other airlines and did not implicate the “airline-consumer” or “airline-end user” relationship.

The Court also rejected Amerijet’s constitutional attacks on the living wage ordinance.