Labor Group Open to Initiative if Minimum Wage Deal Falls Through
As Mayor Murray's income inequality group negotiates minimum wage, labor group says they may consider an initiative if there are too many "exemptions" and "carve-outs."
Josh had a post on the minimum wage debate earlier that included some politic (or as Josh put it, "sanguine") remarks from David Rolf, head of the Service Employees International Union Local 775, about the likelihood that the mayor-Ed Murray-appointed, 25-member Income Inequality Advisory Committee (IIAC) will come up with a minimum-wage proposal that satisfies committee members from the business right to the labor left.
"Bad things can happen, but I'm committed to seeing this process through [as opposed to going to the ballot]," Rolf—who happens to co-chair the committee—told Josh. He added that he hopes that any initiative plan will be a "fallback plan only."
However, another labor leader and committee member, King County Labor Council head David Freiboth, was a little less restrained, suggesting that the labor group will be open to an initiative if business interests on the committee water down the proposal with too many business-friendly exemptions.
At issue, as a front-page Seattle Times story noted today, is whether activists who support a $15 minimum will be satisfied with the committee's recommendations—which could include exemptions such as "tip credits" and health care in calculating total wages—or forge ahead with a separate ballot measure that does not include such exemptions. (Other outstanding issues include whether small businesses should be exempt from paying a higher minimum and whether $15 should be phased in over time.)
Despite what Rolf told us, PubliCola has heard rumblings that the grocery workers' union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, is dissatisfied with how the negotiations are going. Rolf denies this, saying UFCW—which spent tens of thousands of dollars on Murray's one-time-rival, former mayor Mike McGinn's unsuccessful reelection campaign—has been "very participatory" and "really helpful" throughout the process."
The King County Labor Council, the umbrella group for the county's unions, could be another story—if, that is, the committee doesn't come up with a proposal the group can live with."The Labor Council remains ready to turn to the initiative process should we find that our friends in the business community are actually engaging in passive aggressive opposition by stating support while trying to load up an Advisory Committee recommendation with exceptions and carve outs."
KCLC executive secretary David Freiboth, who's on the IIAC with Rolf and UFCW rep Sarah Cherin, tells PubliCola, “I remain committed to the mayor’s process and still feel there is an opportunity for success if all parties are able to set aside their individual interests and honestly engaged in implementing the mayor’s visions.
"Having said that, the Labor Council remains ready to turn to the initiative process should we find that our friends in the business community are actually engaging in passive aggressive opposition by stating support while trying to load up an Advisory Committee recommendation with exceptions and carve outs (taking servers' tips for example) that undermine the mayor’s vision.”
As for the mayor himself: Speaking to host Marcie Sillman on KUOW today, Murray said "I do think that we probably need some sort of phase-in, particularly for the very smallest businesses. Most restaurants are family-owned or very, very small, with several employees, and they operate on the margins. It's a place where people go out of business as much as they go into business. ...
And, in a gentle jab at city council member Kshama Sawant and her fellow "$15 Now" advocates, Murray added: "There are times when [advocates have have tried to] set up [this issue] as the people versus the corporations, but actually, it's much more complicated than that."