Friday Fizz: Likes and Dislikes
Caffeinated news and gossip featuring how we really felt about this week's minimum wage news.
1. Fizz likes the fact that the city council's minimum wage committee passed Mayor Ed Murray's (imperfect, phased-in) compromise minimum wage bill unanimously, with the support of socialist council member Kshama Sawant. Although Sawant, who wanted an immediate $15 minimum wage for large (above 250 employees) businesses and a short, three-year phase-in for smaller businesses, lost on nearly every amendment she proposed, she ultimately said yes to the compromise.
The vote, if she sticks with it on Monday, will bring her even more national attention (she's already the face of the $15 movement around the country) and set up more cities to pass their own higher minimum wages—an idea that, when fast-food workers started striking last year, was widely viewed as somewhere between "radical" and "unthinkable."
2. Fizz doesn't like the fact that the compromise minimum wage proposal includes the possibility of a subminimum "training wage" for teens, disabled workers, and people in apprenticeship positions or vocational programs. Low-skilled work is just that—low-skilled—and it's hard to see how a fast-food worker needs months to get up to speed on how to work a cash register or flip a burger.
It's also unclear how "workers with physical or cognitive disabilities" would be defined. At yesterday's meeting, Bruce Harrell suggested that the lower wage would make it more likely that an employer would hire someone who was, for example, blind, because they could pay that person less (on the presumption that they require special accommodation or face other barriers to doing their jobs).
Harrell said, "It seems to me that an employer has a choice. [If he or she has] two applicants, and one is blind and/or deaf, one is not, and they’re going to pay the same wage, who do you think the employer is going to hire?"
Fizz has a call out to the city's disability commission to get their reaction to that comment, which seems to suggest employers should be allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities who are otherwise capable of doing a job.
3. Fizz likes the fact that the council increased the time an employee can file a grievance for wage theft from 180 days to three years, noting, as Sawant put it, that in many cases "it takes longer than that for workers to even know that their wages are being stolen and that there is a remedy." Fizz also likes that Sally Clark cited the Lilly Ledbetter case in supporting the amendment; in that case, a Goodyear employee who found out she'd been making less than her male counterparts for years was told she couldn't sue because the 180 days between the first instance of discrimination and her discovery of it had long elapsed.
4. Fizz likes the fact that the so-called "tip credit"—which counts tips as part of a worker's wage, allowing employers in tipped industries to pay less than the legal minimum—will phase out over five years, making it the responsibility of employers, not customers, to ensure that workers are being paid the legal minimum.