UPDATE: According to the city attorney's office, charter amendments can only go on the ballot in odd-numbered years, meaning that the earliest possible date Forward Seattle's anti-$15 charter amendment initiative—registered with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission as a 2014 campaign—could go on the ballot is November 2015. That also applies to 15Now, which has been collecting signatures for a charter initiative—one it now seems unlikely to file anyway—to implement an immediate $15 minimum wage for big employers and a shorter phase-in for large ones.
No winner or loser, just a Jolt (or more like a Ka-Pow!) of a quote.
In a statement denouncing the new initiative proposed by a conservative small-business group to overturn the $15 minimum wage adopted by the city council last week, the cochair of Mayor Ed Murray's Income Inequality Advisory Commission, SEIU 775 leader David Rolf, called the backlash reaction "selfish, short-sighted, and stupid."
The group of small businesses, Forward Seattle, wants voters to pass an amendment to the city charter that would slowly phase in an increase in the minimum wage, starting with $10.10 next year and rising to $12.50 by 2020. That wage would only be about $1.25 an hour higher than what the likely statewide minimum, which increases based on inflation, would be anyway, based on the average annual increase in the minimum wage (19 cents) since 2000.
In a statement, Rolf said:
Despite widespread agreement among the Seattle business and labor community not to pursue competing ballot initiatives and overwhelming public support for the ordinance just passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, a fringe group of right-wing ideologues in the business community today showed that they will stop at nothing to prevent workers from earning a living wage. This is selfish, short-sighted, and stupid. Those of us on the IIAC who worked tirelessly for months to produce a plan that works for labor and business are deeply disappointed to see others pursuing plans that would weaken the gains for our community. We certainly don’t expect them to succeed.
And he added, “We call on Forward Seattle to release a list of the businesses who support their initiative. That way Seattle consumers will know which establishments not to patronize.”
Although Forward Seattle hasn't released a list of its supporters, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission requires the campaign to list its financial contributors. So far, according to SEEC records, the businesses and business owners that have contributed to the Forward Seattle campaign include:
- Faye Garneau, head of the North Aurora Merchants Association ($5,000);
- Kaffeeklatsch Seattle in Lake City ($150, including $100 from co-owner Annette Heide-Jessen—EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to a filing error by campaign treasurer Glenn Avery, campaign finance reports originally said Kaffeeklatsch and its owner Heide-Jessen contributed $850; Avery has since corrected the error);
- The Blarney Stone Pub downtown ($150);
- Pickering Spirits, whose owner Colin Pickering is co-owner of the Whisky Bar downtown ($400);
- Rich Fox, owner of Poquitos on Capitol Hill ($250);
- Andrew Friedman, owner of Liberty Bar on Capitol Hill ($500);
- Kathrina Tugadi, owner of Mr. Villa Mexican restaurant in Maple Leaf ($500);
- Angela Cough, owner of Flying Apron bakery in Fremont ($1,000)
In an interview back in April when the ad hoc group was first taking shape, we actually asked Mr. Villa Mexican restaurant ownner (and now Forward Seattle donor) Kathrina Tugadi directly who was backing Forward Seattle. Her response was that she couldn't say specifically, because businesses involved with the group feared retaliation.
"Part of the reason why we organized is that so many businesses are afraid to speak out publicly. What we have promised them is that they do have anonymity until they’re prepared to speak on their own and share their own view," Tugadi said.
Since registering with the SEEC in early May, the group has raised just over $9,000.
Given polling that showed hefty support for Mayor Ed Murray's $15 minimum wage proposal the council passed largely intact last week, the positive local and national coverage, and the ticking clock on getting an initiative on the ballot (the city clerk's office says the city council must submit signatures to King County Elections no later than August 5 to get a measure on the November ballot, and a charter amendment requires around 31,000 valid signatures from Seattle voters), Forward Seattle's chances of overturning the $15 wage seem slim.