Morning Fizz: The Unwelcome Mat
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring testimony, endorsements, and proposals.
1. File this under poor form.
George Allen, the government affairs director for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, testified for a bill in Olympia yesterday that would undo Seattle's own paid sick leave ordinance.
Allen and the chamber were against the paid sick leave ordinance when the Seattle City Council took it up in 2011. But the council eventually passed the rule 8-1 and Allen went on to help in the rule-making process.
But given a chance to capsize the rule, which allows employees to earn paid sick leave, Allen testified in favor of a bill yesterday sponsored by Sen. John Braun (R-20, Centralia) and co-sponsored by renegade Democratic state Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), that would allow employers whose principle place of business is outside of Seattle to ignore Seattle's rules. Allen argued, for example, that it was "absurd" that businesses based in New York had to provide paid sick leave for their employees in Seattle.
Allen told Fizz yesterday: "We're not putting out much of a welcome mat for businesses that want to do business here."
And he reiterated the point in his testimony, complaining that delivery trucks from Kent or Yakima or New York would have to track an employees' hours while they're waiting at the Seattle docks. (To be clear, drivers only have to track their hours in Seattle if they're making a pickup or a delivery here; getting gas, or stopping for a break, doesn't count.)
Labor advoctes call the bill the "Burger King Exemption" because it would allow corporate chains that are based outside of Seattle, such as Burger King from Miami or Target from Minneapolis, and yes, Bank of America from New York, to avoid the law.
The point of a city ordinance like Seattle's paid sick leave law (similar versions are also on the books in D.C., San Francisco, and Connecticut) is to make sure that businesses operating in Seattle comply with Seattle's values. If Target, for example, wants Seattle dollars, they have to play by Seattle rules.
Seattle's chamber of commerce doesn't see it that way, though. Noting fines for noncompliance, Allen told the senate commerce and labor committee: "What happens if the employer in Kent says thank you, Seattle, we have our own values, we have our own benefits, we're doing fine? The thought of the city of Seattle sending [a letter] and fining people outside their jurisdiction ... is the unwelcome mat for doing business in Seattle ... to invest here, to work here, to spend time here."
Nick Licata, the impossibly popular Seattle City Council member who's likely to be elected to his fifth straight term this year and who sponsored the Seattle paid sick leave ordinance in the first place, testified at the hearing as well, telling the senate committee that the law was running smoothly without complaints or any fines being levied.
For the day's best defense of Seattle's bill, watch United Food and Commercial Workers' Union spokeswoman Sarah Cherin: "Workers who are sick shouldn't have to make the choice of staying home to take care of themselves or a loved one or foregoing part of their wages to do so."
And she called on the legislature to pass a separate bill—state Sen. Nick Harper's (D-38, Everett) bill—to "keep moving forward, not backwards, cover more people and not less" by extending Seattle's law statewide to the more than one million workers who don't have paid sick leave.
Tom, responding to a question about respecting local governance, told PubliCola: "Seattle is free to do whatever it wants to do. We just don't want cost structures to affect Washington state businesses [that aren't based in Seattle]."
Mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck announced several new endorsements from labor yesterday. 2. Former city council member-turned-mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck—through his new volunteer spokeswoman, ex-PI reporter and former city attorney Pete Holmes communications director Kathy Mulady—announced several new endorsements from labor yesterday, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19, which represents waterfront maritime workers, the longshore clerical workers' union, and the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific.
The significance of the endorsements? All three unions represent workers who might be impacted by the proposed arena, which the Port of Seattle and its related unions have opposed on the grounds that it will harm freight mobility and threaten maritime jobs on the waterfront; the longshore union has sued the city to stop the arena on the grounds that the city has failed to consider potential arena sites other than the land Chris Hansen has purchased in SoDo as part of its environmental analysis, making Hansen's site a fait accompli.
3. The city council's public safety committee—headed by Bruce Harrell, who's running against Mayor Mike McGinn—heard two proposals that would impact one McGinn initiative and one McGinn appointee, and which have obvious ramifications for the upcoming mayoral election.
The first is a $5 million, federally funded Seattle Police Department program to install a network of 30 security cameras along the city's waterfront to monitor Port of Seattle facilities. (After the network came to light, McGinn said SPD would not turn the cameras on until the public has a chance to weigh in.)
The second was a proposal by Harrell himself to put a city charter amendment on the ballot that would require the city council to reconfirm the police chief. Currently, 13 city department heads are subject to council confirmation; only the police and fire chiefs are not subject to reconfirmation.