By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Show some Love: Buzz is so proud. All on our own, we've come up with a compromise in a battle that has split our beloved city council and reopened racial divides, tearing a hole in our civic-minded heart.
In case you've forgotten: The council is divided over whether to give lengthy, no-bid contract extensions to two companies, Star Concessions Ltd. and Hudson Group, which operate, respectively, the airport's food and retail concessions. Minority council members want to extend the contracts because the two operators are wholly or partly minority-owned enterprises—or "disadvantaged" in bureaucratic-speak. (Star is owned by Gilbert Aranza, who is Latino. Two investors in Hudson's Love Field operations are black women. Oh, sure, they happen to be a congresswoman and a state representative woman, but that's just coinky-dink.) Opposing the extensions are Mayor Tom Leppert et al., who want to open up the contracts to bids.
This is where our plan comes in. See, Star employs about 200 people at 10 eateries at the airport, 90 percent of them minorities or women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for food preparation workers is $8.61 in Dallas. Retail cashiers average $8.73. We tried to get comparable figures from the two Love Field concessionaires, but no luck. Nevertheless, it's a reasonable guess that many airport workers qualify as "disadvantaged," if by that you mean "not rich and not a legislator."
Buzz's thought is that the city council could put the contracts to bid, but include wages and benefits for workers as part of the criteria for judging those bids. A company that kicks back less money to the city but returns more money to proletariat—um, we mean "employees"—in pay and/or benefits would be considered a good bidder, no matter which rich, politically wired person owns it. It's sort of like a local version of the federal Davis-Bacon Act, which requires some federal contractors to pay construction workers the prevailing local wages.
Buzz ran our pinko scheme by council member Pauline Medrano, who sits on the council's transportation committee, and committee vice chairman Sheffie Kadane. Medrano said it might be good to "take it under consideration." Kadane said, in essence, "Do what now?" It's none of the city's business how a contractor pays its employees, he suggested.
Still, we're hopeful. Obviously, our elected representatives want to help the disadvantaged, right? Otherwise, this whole battle is just another cynical fight over who gets the grease, and we just know that can't be the case.