Morning Fizz: Minimum Wage Machinations
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring strikes, amendments, and votes.
1. Mayor Ed Murray was supposed to send his $15 minimum wage proposal to the city council yesterday (and the day before that too). You remember—it's the proposal he announced with business and labor by his side two weeks ago after his task force struck a deal.
But Murray has, according to sources at City Hall, repeatedly put off officially transmitting the bill to the second floor because of renewed unease from the business community as the details of the deal get translated into the specific legalese of an ordinance.
Murray has apparently told city council members that he plans to send legislation down to the second floor "tomorrow" so many days in a row now that no one on the council has any idea when to expect the proposal anymore.
However, council sources do predict that the council vote may ultimately be unanimous, with the whole city council—including even leftist City Council member Kshama Sawant, a minority 'No' vote from the original 21-2-1 task force (chamber of commerce head Maud Daudon abstained) vote—signing off on the legislation.
As someone on the second floor noted, does Sawant really want to be on the 8-1 side of a nationally-noteworthy minimum wage deal that has the enthusiastic support of labor—and ironically, end up playing the role of (wait for it) former City Council member Richard Conlin, whom she ousted last year? Remember, Conlin claimed his lone 'No' vote against the historic paid sick leave compromise was coming from the left. As yesterday's polling showed, Seattle voters appear to be all in on a compromise solution, supporting Murray's plan by 66 percent.
Still, getting Sawant would require some tweaks, such as including a shorter phase-in period for big businesses, no exemption for tips, and a stronger enforcement mechanism to ensure that businesses aren't skirting the rules.
2. Those amendments may be tricky to come by with other council members reportedly resigned to making minimal changes, and business getting a little antsy about sticking with the deal.
"People think the reason for the longer phase in is business. That's untrue."—David Meinert
Task force member and local restaurant owner David Meinert says: "People think the reason for the longer phase in is business. That's untrue. Business was willing to phase into $15 quicker with a tip credit. Labor basically traded away a quicker rise in wages for Seattleites in exchange for their dogmatic stance against tip credit, even a well defined, enforceable tip credit that mitigated for all their objections."
(Meinert suggests, for example, that tips can only make up to 30 percent of the city minimum wage—at a $15 minimum wage, 30 percent would equal $4.50. And the cash wage must equal no less than $10.50. He also suggests limiting the definition of a tipped worker to someone who makes at least $300 a month in tips.)
He adds: "It's really because of associated [union] fights elsewhere, not out of concern for Seattleites, but because of battles against poorly designed tip credits in other states. End of the day is that thousands of workers will make less money due to labor's rigidity."
3. With a press release hailing "Mayor Ed Murray's historic minimum wage proposal," the labor-backed organizers from Working Washington—the same group behind last May's pivotal fast food worker walk outs that kicked off the $15 movement—are vowing to keep the pressure on council to pass the plan, "taking credit for pressuring the Seattle City Council to consider a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour."
To keep the pressure on, they announced a series of one-day strikes today at fast food restaurants around the city plus an afternoon rally at Westlake Park downtown. (The strikes started last night when four workers walked off the job at a McDonald's on Madison in First Hill and continued early this morning with a workers strike at the nearby IHOP.)
"I'm going on strike because I deserve to make a decent living to support myself and my children without having to depend on public assistance,” Crystal Thompson, a Domino’s Pizza employee from Seattle, said in Working Washington's press statement.
4. However, 15 Now, the group affiliated with Sawant, which doesn't support Murray's phased-in proposal for big business, will meet at the McDonald's at Third and Pine at 11:00 today to kick off their signature drive for an alternative wage initiative that would immediately implement a $15 minimum wage for all Seattle businesses with more than 250 employees, and phase in a $15 wage for smaller businesses over three years, with no exemptions for things like tips and health care.
And Sawant, the marquee speaker for their event, has said she'll be one of the first people to sign the petition.
5. As for Mayor Ed Murray, at the same time Sawant will have the cameras on her downtown, he plans a big announcement of his own at 11:30 in West Seattle today. Making good on his campaign trail pledge, he's rolling out a property tax plan for a universal pre-kindergarten funding measure scheduled for this November's ballot.
6. In non-City Hall news, she's back: The "Skirt Judge," former King County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Burrage, who caused a stir 15 years ago when she said she'd fine female lawyers for wearing pants in the courtroom and lost her subsequent 2006 run for State Supreme Court—is running as a Republican for state rep against Rep. Mia Gregerson (D-33, SeaTac, Des Moines).