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SeaTac Proposition 1

SeaTac  workers said Wednesday, June 5, they had submitted enough voters’ signatures to the Seatac City Clerk’s Office to put on the November ballot their ‘Good Jobs Initiative’ to raise employees’ wages and benefits to $15 an hour. The measure was approved by voters in the November 2013 general election.

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By Alana Semuels and Maria L. La Ganga

Los Angeles Times

Voters in tiny SeaTac, Wash., might be drawing the most attention when they go to polls Tuesday to vote on raising the minimum wage for airport and hotel workers to $15 an hour. But SeaTac isn’t the only localized battle where advocates are trying to gather support for raising the minimum wage. Frustrated by a federal minimum wage bill that has gone nowhere, people in half a dozen other states are trying to get folks a raise.

seatac-good-jobs-petitions

Courtesy: The Stand

New Jersey is the closest to seeing some sort of change. Voters there will decide Tuesday whether to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour  from the current rate of $7.25. If voters approve the ballot initiative, which asks voters to approve a Constitutional amendment, the minimum wage will continue to keep pace with inflation in the future. Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed a bill last month that would have raised the minimum wage to $8.50.

A September poll indicated that 65% of voters in New Jersey supported raising the minimum wage.

In Alaska, South Dakota and Idaho, activists are currently gathering signatures to put a minimum wage initiative on a future ballot, according to Paul Sonn, general counsel with the National Employment Law Project. Alaska’s minimum wage is $7.75. In South Dakota and Idaho, the minimum wage is $7.25.

By contrast, Washington state, which borders Idaho, has a minimum wage of $9.19, meaning someone who lived in Idaho and crossed a state border to get a job in Washington could make more than $75 a week more simply by working in a different town.

The legislatures in a few states may consider raising the minimum wage through laws. A legislative campaign in Maryland would raise the minimum wage to $10, while activists are also trying to push legislation in Illinois, Minnesota and Hawaii.

Massachusetts legislators are considering a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10; some in the state are also pushing for a ballot initiative in case the bill falls through.

“This shows that when government is gridlocked, voters will take matters into their own hands,” Sonn said.

Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate have put forward bills to raise the federal minimum wage to $10, up from $7.25.

Certain municipalities also have acted independently of their states. The minimum wages in San Jose, Calif., and San Francisco are higher than the state of California’s, and Albuquerque and Santa Fe in New Mexico have independently raised the minimum wage in their cities.

A closer look at the Sea-Tac issue

In SeaTac, at first the Rev. Jan Bolerjack couldn’t figure out why the line at her church’s food pantry was studded with men and women in what she described as “airline gear,” uniforms they wore as baggage handlers and ramp workers at nearby Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“It confused me,” she recounted recently. “Why were these people working full time at the airport and standing in line for food?”

Bolerjack became pastor at Riverton Park United Methodist Church in 2007, two years after Alaska Airlines contracted out an estimated 500 jobs for baggage handlers, whose wages were slashed from an average of $13.41 an hour to a starting wage of $8.75.

That shift by the major airline at the busiest airport in the Pacific Northwest set the stage for Proposition 1.

The measure, on the Tuesday ballot in this working-class enclave south of Seattle, would raise the minimum wage for certain airport and hotel workers to $15 an hour and guarantee them sick leave. About 6,300 employees at an estimated 70 businesses would be affected.

SeaTac has become the latest battleground over “living wages” and income inequality, a fight being played out in fast-food restaurants and airport terminals nationwide and pitting organized labor against the airline and hospitality industries.

Although only about 12,000 residents are registered to vote here, campaign donations have poured in on both sides of the hard-fought measure. By Friday more than $1.9 million in cash and in-kind services had been raised, or about $160 per registered voter. Supporters have outraised opponents by nearly 2 to 1.

If passed, Proposition 1 would bring the airport in line with California’s major aviation hubs, which have set pay rates above state and federal minimums. The living wage ordinance at Los Angeles International Airport, for example, guarantees $15.67 an hour for covered workers who do not get health benefits and $10.91 for those who do.

“West Coast airports have been leaders in addressing the issues of low pay and high turnover in our airports,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. He argues that low pay “has impacts on the airports themselves in terms of turnover and quality of performance that affect safety and security.”

In a detailed study of airport worker wages nationwide released Monday, the Berkeley center found that the outsourcing of baggage worker jobs, for example, more than tripled in the last 10 years, and pay for all porters during the same period dropped by nearly half, from more than $19 an hour in 2012 dollars to $10.60.

Fully 37% of cleaning and baggage workers at airports live in or near poverty, said the report, financed by the Service Employees International Union.

“Because of low wages and benefits, a similar share of these workers and their families must rely on public benefit programs to make ends meet,” the report said.

But Mike West, co-chairman of Common Sense SeaTac, which opposes Proposition 1, warned that raising the minimum wage would hurt entry-level workers in his hometown, where many new immigrants do not speak English and one neighborhood along gritty International Boulevard is nicknamed “Little Mogadishu.”

West, who recently retired, owned an auto body shop called Southtowne Auto Rebuild for four decades. Through the years West hired numerous entry-level workers at minimum wage, employees he could not have afforded, he said, if he had had to pay them the equivalent of $15 an hour.

On Friday, West was driving his red pickup past dueling Proposition 1 billboards and signs, when the driver in the next lane honked and waved. At the wheel was a smiling James Heidelberg. West hired him in the 1990s.

“There’s a kid I took on who couldn’t get to work at 8 a.m.,” West recounted fondly. “He took the bus. He’d show up at 10. I ‘put up’ with him for 15 years. He was a detailer. We trained him.… I was taking a tax receiver and changing him into a taxpayer.”

Common Sense SeaTac points to a recent study by the business-friendly Washington Research Council, which estimated that the ballot measure would kill 5% of the city’s low-wage jobs and that an additional 5% to 10% of affected workers “would be replaced by more experienced and educated employees.”

But Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for Yes! For SeaTac, discounted the report as “scare tactics” and said Proposition 1′s aim was “to help people who work for a living make a living.”

Airport concession workers like Roxan Seibel are among those who would benefit. Seibel is a single mother who has worked at the airport for 30 years, raising two adopted daughters, one of them a child with serious medical needs.

When the girl, born with fetal alcohol effects, would get sick or break her feeding tube, Seibel said, she had to take unpaid time off to care for her.

Seibel said she had not taken a single sick day for herself. She feared the consequences and loss of pay.

“I have come to work sick,” she said. “I have thrown up in garbage cans. I am not the only one.… I feel that everybody that works should have paid sick time.”

SEATAC — A heated battle for a $15 minimum wage is raging this election season in the city of SeaTac.  On Tuesday, voters there will decide on Proposition 1, a big hike in pay for airport workers and other SeaTac-area employees.   A win could spread the movement to other Washington cities.

“If you are working for a living, you should be able to make a living,” said Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for the SeaTac minimum wage campaign

seatac-good-jobs-petitions

Courtesy: The Stand

Right now the state’s minimum wage is $9.19 an hour.  For years, labor unions have tried to get Sea-Tac International Airport to raise it for the workers there, to no avail.  So, they have gone to the people with an initiative to try for it at the ballot box.

If city voters approve a $15 minimum, it would apply to most airport workers, as well as those in airport-related industries, including the large nearby hotels, rental car agencies, and parking lots.

“These are corporations, multi-national corporations, many of them foreign owned, many of them making record-level profits that can afford and, in fact, should be paying people who work for them a living wage,” Weiner said.  “Fifteen dollars an hour in our view is just barely what you need to get by and to feed your family.”

A number of small businesses in the SeaTac area have banded together to defeat the measure.

“These jobs were never intended to be lasting jobs that you support a family on,” said Mike West, former chairman of the Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce.  “You have to get in at the bottom, get your foot in the door and work your way up, with education and training.”

In addition to a $15 minimum wage, this SeaTac measure would mandate paid sick leave and require employers to offer part-time workers more hours before hiring additional employees.

“It’s anti-business, and it will scare business away,” said Daryl Tapio, a SeaTac resident and business owner.  “If we have a minimum wage that is $5-$6 higher than the city just a mile away, and we have six cities that surround SeaTac, we’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Weiner denies that raising the minimum wage will hurt business and jobs.

“That’s what we hear, the sky is falling, all the time whenever anybody tries to raise the wages or help workers,” said Weiner.  “What we see over and over again is actually the opposite.  More jobs are created.  More money goes back into our local economy.”

Even though SeaTac is a relatively small town, only about 25,000 residents, this battle is getting a ton of attention.  Already campaign spending has reached $2 million.  Labor unions clearly hope this fight will encourage other area cities, perhaps even Seattle, to do the same.  Given the amount of money opponents are putting into this, it’s clear they worry exactly that will happen.

seatac-good-jobs-petitions

Courtesy: The Stand

SEATTLE — King County Elections said Friday it will be placing an initiative proposing a $15-an-hour minimum wage for some SeaTac workers back on the Nov. 5 election ballot after the Washington Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court judge’s ruling stripping it off.

Last month, King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ordered that Proposition One — the “Good Jobs Initiative” — be taken off the ballot because, she said, there were duplicate signatures of voters on the petitions to place the measure on the ballot. The disqualified signatures left supporters 61 short of the number required.

But earlier Friday, the appeals court reversed Darvas’ ruling and ordered it placed back on the ballot.

“King County Elections has received direction from The Court of Appeals of the State of Washington which in effect places an ordinance proposed by initiative petition back on the November 5, 2013 general election ballot,” a King County Elections news release said. “The initiative relates to setting a minimum wage for certain workers in SeaTac and was removed from the Nov. 5 general election ballot on August 26, 2013 by order of the King County Superior Court.

“The department will include the SeaTac measure on the ballot and send the ballots for printing as scheduled. Ballots will be mailed to overseas and service voters on Sept. 20. Ballots will be mailed to local voters Oct. 16.”

seatac-good-jobs-petitions

Courtesy: The Stand

SEATTLE — Supporters of the SeaTac “Good Jobs Initiative” for a $15-an-hour minimum wage filed suit Wednesday against King County Elections and SeaTac city officials, demanding that they put Proposition 1 back on the November ballot despite a King County judge’s ruling that it be removed.

The suit was filed by Patricia Seidenstricker, owner of a pet boarding business in SeaTac, and SeaTac voter Brian White, whose signature was thrown off of the initiative petition because it wasn’t dated, and by other “disenfranchised voters,” according to initiative leader Heather Weiner, who formed the group “Yes! For SeaTac.”

On Monday, King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ordered the county to remove Proposition 1 from the ballot because there weren’t sufficient voter signatures on the petitions, although both King County Elections and SeaTac found earlier that there were sufficient valid voter signatures.

In a separate move, Weiner’s group on Wednesday filed a motion asking Darvas to direct the city of SeaTac to accept and review an additional 248 SeaTac voter initiative signatures submitted to the city clerk earlier this week. Darvas agreed to hear the motion on an expedited schedule and to make a decision by Sept. 3.

Weiner said in a news release that corporate lawyers for Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association are leading the last-ditch attempt to keep Proposition 1 off the November ballot. Airlines, rental car companies and other corporations have contributed nearly $250,000 to overturn the initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

ballot boxSEATTLE — A group behind a $15-an-hour minimum wage in SeaTac appealed a King County judge’s decision to strip it from the November ballot and also submitted 250 more voter signatures to the city in order to get it back on the ballot, it was reported Tuesday.

The Seattle Times said the group “Yes! For SeaTac”, which is sponsoring what is known as the Good Jobs Initiative, appealed the decision of King County Superior Court Andrea Darvas to the Court of Appeals and asked for an emergency ruling.

On Monday, Darvas reversed the decision by the SeaTac City Clerk’s Office and King County Elections to allow the measure to go on the ballot, saying the initiative is “not supported by the required number of valid signatures of registered voters.”

Darvas said the city of SeaTac and the city clerk “are prohibited, and must desist and refrain, from sending the initiative to King County,” and must take “whatever actions are required to withdraw and remove the measure from processing by the King County Elections Department” and not place the measure on the ballot.

The judge said that if the signatures of 61 people who signed the petition more than once are removed, then there are not enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

But the group supporting the measure said that when a duplicate signature was found, both versions of the signature were thrown out. The initiative ended up 17 signatures short of the required 1,536 needed to put it on the November ballot, the group said.

So the group submitted 250 more signatures to the city Tuesday in the hope they can salvage the measure for the ballot.

To read the full decision by Darvas, click here (PDF file).

SEATAC — Sea-Tac Airport workers said Wednesday they have submitted enough voters’ signatures to put on the November ballot their ‘Good Jobs Initiative’ to improve employees’ wages and benefits.

goodjobsSupporters delivered more than 2,500 signatures to the SeaTac City Clerk’s Office. Only 1,541 valid signatures are required to qualify the measure in the city.

“Today, we celebrate in SeaTac. Filing the initiative shows how the community is coming together in its care and concern for one another. When working families can be paid properly and thrive, our whole community benefits,” said the Rev. Jan Bolerjack, pastor of Riverton Park United Methodist Church.

“It’s great that so many people support the ‘SeaTac Good Jobs Initiative’ and it was easy to get signatures.” said Assadollah Valibiergi, a wheelchair attendant who works for Alaska Airlines contractor Bags Inc.

“It’s not fair that, you know, we’re the ones that do all of the work  and we’re the ones that make all of the contractors and all of the airlines at the airport all their money, and we do not get a fair share of the money that is made at the airport,”  said worker Erik Frank.

The measure would set basic employment standards for workers employed in the transportation, tourism and hospitality industries in SeaTac, including paid sick leave, full-time work for those who need it, a living wage of at least $15 an hour, job security for employees when companies change contractors, and assurances that tips and service charges go to the workers who perform the service.

The measure would cover businesses in and around the airport, including airport baggage handling, passenger services, cabin cleaning, aircraft fueling, security, and retail stores, along with hotels, rental car and parking lot facilities. Small businesses are specifically exempt.

The SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs includes workers, faith and community supporters, union members and retirees.

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