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On Other Blogs Today: Sick Leave, the Minimum Wage, aPodments, and More

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By Erica C. Barnett September 17, 2013


1. In the wake of Seattle's own mandatory paid sick-leave law (which guarantees sick or safe time off for most Seattle employees), Think Progress reports that Tacoma is the next battleground for paid sick leave, with a group of several dozen business owners, unions, workers and activists supporting a paid sick leave law.

TP writes that two out of every five workers in Tacoma, or about 41,000 residents, don't have any paid sick leave and have to come in to work when they aren't well. Those workers are concentrated, as they are in Seattle, in the retail, food service, and health services industries.

2. In keeping with the paper's generally libertarian ideology, the Seattle Times' Thanh Tan argues that low-wage workers should rely on benevolent employers like Dick's Drive-In to voluntarily pay higher than minimum wage, rather than agitating for higher minimum wages for all. "Mandating a massive increase from Washington’s current minimum wage of $9.19 is too much, too fast for the small restaurants that are hiring inexperienced employees," Tan writes. 

Dick's starts its workers at $10 an hour, marginally higher than the state minimum of $9.19—and that, Tan argues, should be enough to satisfy "entry level," "inexperienced employees" who take fast food jobs on a temporary basis to make a little extra pocket cash.

Tan's argument is a familiar one: Minimum-wage workers are mostly just teenagers seeking to earn a few bucks before go off to college, so there's no reason to pay them a living wage (like the $15 an hour for which fast-food workers are currently agitating).

That claim, however, is belied by actual statistics about poverty-level workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, three-quarters of minimum-wage employees are 20 or older; a quarter are parents; and the majority are women. It may make upper-middle-class writers more comfortable to believe that fast-food workers are just kids working their first job, but that simply isn't true: Someone has to take those "entry-level" jobs, and, by and large, they're adults desperate to pay the rent, not teenagers looking for a little extra cash.

3. KOMO News reports on the ongoing controversy over microhousing, AKA aPodments, focusing on a proposed 43-unit building in Ballard—a development neighbors criticize for being out of scale (it's four stories, compared to the six-story behemoths currently rising all over Ballard) and having insufficient parking (the aPodments don't include parking, but most aPodment residents don't have cars.)

The city council plans to adopt legislation imposing new notice and design-review requirements on aPodments, which are currently exempt from many city regulations because each floor—which can include as many as eight kitchenless micro-units—counts as a single "dwelling unit." 

4. Also from KOMO: Drilling on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project, which has been stalled for weeks over a labor dispute (the longshore workers' union argued that several jobs loading dirt onto barges belonged to them and blocked the entrance to the tunnel construction site), will resume again within a few days while the union seeks a resolution with the tunnel contractors.

Officials with Seattle Tunnel Partners, the consortium of companies that's digging the tunnel, have argued that they have no obligation to give the jobs to union workers. 

5. West Seattle Blog summarizes the mayoral debate this afternoon at the West Seattle Senior Center, at which, they report, Mayor Mike McGinn blamed his challenger Ed Murray for failing to "keep control of the senate" and "manage the budget" and Murray accused McGinn of failing to build relationships with Olympia. McGinn apparently also got off a zinger about Murray "uniting" lots of folks—then ticking off a long list of Murray's corporate contributors. 

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