Morning Fizz

The Latest Results and the Latest Proposal

Democrats in the suburbs, Devil's in the details, questions about the polling, and no comment from the Times.

By Josh Feit August 8, 2016

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1. The latest numbers in suburban Seattle’s 41st Legislative District state senate race show Democratic challenger Lisa Wellman pulling ahead of the longtime Republican state senator Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island). Wellman, a teacher turned tech executive was 800 votes behind after the first count on Tuesday night, but after a week of ballot tallies, she eventually pulled ahead by 350 votes as of Friday. A low-profile August primary should have favored the GOP incumbent; Wellman’s strong showing is encouraging to Democrats who believe she’ll have more favorable conditions (a bigger turnout, a cuckoo GOP headliner, and the first-ever female Democratic nominee atop their ticket) in November’s presidential election. The Republicans have a 26-23 advantage in the state senate and the Litzow/Wellman race is pivotal as the two sides battle over two races.

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The GOP currently holds the advantage in the other pivotal race where Republican hopeful Lynda Wilson pulled ahead by 28 votes (!) on Friday over Democratic hopeful Tim Probst in suburban Vancouver’s 17th Legislative District. Probst held a 200-vote lead after the first count last Tuesday.

2. The fact that state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle) and state representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill) emerged from the top-two primary in the race to take retiring U.S. representative Jim McDermott’s (D-WA, 7) seat (with Jayapal now the strong favorite 20 points up over Walkinshaw) certainly raises questions about third place finisher Joe McDermott’s polling. In May, his team reported that he had a 26-point advantage over his two lesser known rivals, coming in at 35 to Jayapal's 9 percent and Walkinshaw’s 7 percent.  

Well, wasn’t that just voter confusion? Weren’t voters just thinking Joe McDermott, a Democratic King County council member, was Jim McDermott? No, his pollsters said, going on to explain that their battery of questions ultimately differentiated Joe from Jim and actually gave Joe a higher take—40 percent—after the confusion was cleared up.

However, the primary vote stands at 41 (Jayapal), 21 (Wakinshaw), and 19 (McDermott).

3. Mayor Ed Murray and council members Lorena González and Lisa Herbold are apparently putting the final touches on a secured scheduling proposal; labor is hailing secured scheduling, a cause to prevent employers from jerking around hourly service industry workers with last-minute changes and fewer hours, as the new $15. (In fact, labor group Working Washington believes the cause is even more significant than $15 because it’s about power itself.)

While the rules, which city council civil rights committee chair Herbold has been taking the lead on drawing up, will tackle the detailed dynamics of last minute schedule changes, the centerpiece tenet of the legislation will take on a larger principle, mandating that employers must offer available hours to existing employees before hiring any new part timers. That macro fix gets at the real problem, which I outlined in the magazine earlier this year: A corporate algorithm known as “just in time” employment that relies on inflated staff sizes and has allowed management to treat employees as nothing more than automatons.

The city’s push to regulate scheduling may spur an even more intractable debate than the minimum wage. At issue is the service economy’s business model. A new trend in hourly-wage work known as “just in time” employment, where management calculates labor-to-demand ratios, has become so sophisticated that bosses now manicure hours to maximize efficiency by mixing and matching truncated schedules to fill every hour of the workday.

That system also relies on employing extra-large staffs so managers have workers to choose from at all times. The practice empowers management to be flexible, but makes schedules unpredictable and workers expendable. It also allows management to skimp on benefits reserved for full-timers, or, as Medsker noticed at Starbucks, on giving employees lunch breaks; baristas earn lunch breaks at five hours. (For the record, Starbucks provides benefits starting at 20-hour workweek.)

Just-in-time scheduling “views workers as equipment,” University of Chicago professor Susan Lambert, who wrote a 2014 report on precarious work schedules, told Seattle Met.

4. Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen has not responded to several requests to address the emails I reported on last week.

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The emails, between Blethen and Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick, showed Blethen making what appears to be a $290,000 advertorial proposal to the Port just as the Times was busy making the case on its editorial pages—in sync with the Port's position—against the big deal SoDo stadium legislation.

The Port of Seattle promptly responded to my call last week and told me they haven't reached any agreement with the Times on the proposal yet.

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