Voters in the City of SeaTac, Washington appear to have approved an historic living wage ballot initiative that will lift wages to $15 an hour for 6,300 workers and inject an estimated $54 million into the local economy. Yes on Prop 1 currently leads by 53 votes with mail ballots continuing to come in. The vote culminates a nearly year-long campaign by a strong community-labor partnership.
Puget Sound Sage led several elements of the campaign, including research, policy analysis, small business organizing, community coalition building and faith mobilization. Local unions, led by SEIU, Teamsters, UNITE HERE and UFCW, contributed strong financial support and campaign workers to the campaign to overcome well-financed opposition by Alaska Airlines and other national employers. Campaign opponents are planning a series of legal challenges to the initiative.
In addition to the $15 minimum wage, Prop 1 included comprehensive benefits and protections for covered hotel, car rental, parking and airport service workers:
- Paid Sick Days – Workers accrue an hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. For a full time employee, this is 6.5 days per year.
- Worker Retention – Requires sub-contracting companies to retain the existing workforce for 60 days.
- Tips Theft Protection – Ensures that hotel service charges (tips) are paid entirely to workers, not kept by management.
- Full Time Work – Management must offer part-time employees the option to work more hours before hiring new part-time employees.
These interlocking, comprehensive benefits mean that not only will thousands of workers be lifted out of poverty, but they will also have more job security and better working conditions. These policies create a win-win-win scenario for businesses and the local economy. Employers will see reduced turnover and improved performance, local businesses will have more customers and the household income in the region will rise by $54 million, according to Sage’s economic impact study.
The initiative also promotes equitable Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). As a result of improved job quality at the airport, a key employment center on metro Seattle’s new LINK light rail system, low-wage service sector workers will be able both to locate to higher cost communities along the light rail and be better able to fight displacement pressures.
The movement to address income inequality in the northwest is growing. Seattle has established a track record with the passage of a paid sick leave law in 2012. Ed Murray, Seattle’s new mayor, has pledged a $15 per hour minimum wage by the end of his first term. Key City Council members are calling for action in 2014. Maud Daudon, head of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, is asking for a dialogue with elected officials about how to address income inequality. Progressive unions are committed to expanding the SeaTac work across the region. Puget Sound Sage will be playing a strong role in this movement, providing critical research and policy leadership, while mobilizing constituencies for change.