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On Other Blogs Today: Holcomb, Coal Trains, a Stranger Endorsement, and Tip Credit

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By Erica C. Barnett July 16, 2014


1. Seattle Weekly had the scoop that superstar ACLU attorney Alison Holcomb, the architect of last year's marijuana legalization initiative, I-502, is "seriously considering" a run against socialist freshman city council member Kshama Sawant next year, when all city council members, who are currently elected at large, will have to run either in the geographical districts where they live or for two citywide council seats. 

Holcomb, who, like Sawant, lives on Capitol Hill, tells the Weekly's Ellis Conklin, "You don’t effect change without a broad coalition, and [Sawant's] rhetoric is all about ‘you are a capitalist pig,’ no matter what the size of your business.”

Sawant's new district encompasses not just liberal Capitol Hill but (perhaps less Socialist-inclined?) neighborhoods like Montlake, Madison Park, and Madrona. 

2. During the debate over the $15 minimum wage, restaurant owners won a phased-out "tip credit," allowing them to pay less than the full minimum as long as their workers made at least $15 an hour including tips, by arguing that tipped workers are actually very well-compensated, often making $20, $30, or even $40-plus an hour. 

That may be true at some high-end restaurants, but according to a new report, the reality for most tipped workers (most of whom are women) is that they're far more likely to be living on the edge of economic ruin. 

According to the American Prospect, a new Economic Policy Institute study finds that tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty than non-tipped workers.

"The creation of the tip credit—the difference, paid for by customers’ tips, between the regular minimum wage and the sub-wage for tipped workers—fundamentally changed the practice of tipping," EPI writes. "Whereas tips had once been simply a token of gratitude from the served to the server, they became, at least in part, a subsidy from consumers to the employers of tipped workers. In other words, part of the employer wage bill is now paid by customers via their tips."

Tipped workers in Seattle will reach $15 in 2021 with incremental raises higher than the state's lower minimum along the way. 

3. Shipments of domestic oil are already slowing rail traffic in Washington state, KPLU reports, and the problem could get a lot worse if two proposed export terminals—one in Cherry Point near Bellingham, and one in Longview—are built.

According to a new report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils, "added volumes from coal and oil trains would be more than triple the current shipments for agriculture," KPLU reports, leading to congestion on railroad tracks for up to a decade, and higher prices for companies that ship agricultural products such as apples and wheat. 

4. The Stranger, which went all in for socialist Sawant in her run against City Council member Richard Conlin in 2013 (and endorsed her in  2012 as well when she ran against state house speaker Rep. Frank Chopp), wasn't convinced by Sawant's campaign volunteer and protégé Jess Spear. Like Sawant, Spear is running against Chopp in her first bid, but the Stranger went with the veteran Democrat this time

Noting that the 98-member House is much harder for a single person to influence than the nine-member city council, the Stranger's edit board writes, "Spear, who sees Sawant's success on the nine-member Seattle City Council as her model for success in Olympia, seems to believe that electing just one socialist from one Seattle district to the 98-member state House will suddenly cause the rest of the House members to march behind her on rent control, a higher minimum wage, and forcing CEOs to give out free foot rubs. Yeah, we made up that last one, but really, Spear says things like, 'I think electing me alone will cause many people in the legislature to understand.' Wrong."

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