Wednesday Fizz: Worried That It Will Torpedo the Deal
Wednesday Fizz featuring the minimum wage and higher bus fares.
1. Fizz hears from reliable sources that Service Employees International Union 775 head David Rolf and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, both members of Mayor Ed Murray's Income Inequality Advisory Committee, sat down together to talk about the possibility of competing minimum-wage initiatives from 15Now—the rabble-rousy group that is collecting signatures for a measure to implement a $15 minimum wage for big companies immediately and phase in smaller companies over three years—as well as several business-backed groups recently.
The agenda for the meeting: The powerful union and the wealthy entrepreneur want potential initiative backers to know that they would move heaven and earth to make sure Murray's compromise plan doesn't get derailed.
Activists from both the left and right have opposed Murray's complicated compromise, which involves a multi-tiered phase-in to $15 an hour over three, four, five, or seven years, depending on a company's size, whether it offers health care, and whether its business plan relies on tips. All companies would have pay $18.13 an hour by 2025, with the minimum rising based on inflation after that.
However, only 15Now (including city council member Kshama Sawant, seen above signing the petition) is collecting signatures for a competing measure. Supporters of the compromise deal, which took nearly six months to hammer out, worry that a 15Now ballot measure will torpedo the deal.
Meanwhile, we have a call out to Murray to find out what he thinks of some more business-friendly potential amendments, which could also conceivably disrupt the compromise. The amendments, proposed by the city council's central staff, include a potential exemption to the timeline for large nonprofits like Swedish and Group Health (currently considered "big businesses") and a potential sub-minimum "training wage" for new employees.
However, those proposals currently appear to be unlikely to pass, and included in the memo to give the council—which has ultimate say over the deal—every potential option.
Fizz stands by our prediction that the compromise will pass largely unchanged.
The council's next meeting on the minimum wage proposal is at 9:00 this coming Thursday.
2. Talk about no good choices: As the county prepares to cut 550,000 hours of bus service after the failure of Proposition 1, which would have staved off 17 percent cuts, county council member Rod Dembowski is proposing legislation that would raise bus fares yet again, after four fare increases since 2008 (another 25-cent hike is coming next year). The legislation would also ask Metro to come up with additional cuts to operational costs and "alternatives to traditional transit service."
Metro, of course, has long been saying they've done all that already, finding efficiencies, reworking its entire system to cut down on less-productive routes, and raising fares to the point that "farebox recovery"—the amount of the system that's funded directly by fares, rather than other taxes—above the national average. (They've also burned through the agency's cash reserves.)
And while a professional making $70,000 a year might be able to afford another fare hike, chances are that professional has a car and can avoid buses that will soon be even more overcrowded, one reason Prop. 1 supporters argued its failure would put another 30,000 cars on the road.
Murray's own alternative proposal—which would fund Seattle routes but also provide a regional matching fund for suburban cities that want to preserve their own service—could be on the ballot in November.