SeaTac Committee seeks higher minimum wage, employment standards


by Jack Mayne

For the past several days, a proposal by an outside group to raise some minimum salaries almost $6 an hour above the state minimum and impose mandatory paid sick leave for transportation and hospitality workers in have caused some concerns in the city.

As e-mails and talks ratcheted up and, with some certain this was a scheme of the SeaTac City Council majority, the city took the unusual course on Monday and issued a press release that said the “independent group known as the SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs” was proposing the ordinance and was in the midst of getting 1,541 signatures to ensure the measure goes before voters if council did not pass it first.

The 1,541 signatures is equal to 15 percent of the number of people who voted in the 2011 city election, and the required number to ensure the measure goes on the next ballot if the council does not pass it.

“While the city will follow through on the initiative process as required by state law and city code, the initiative was filed by the independent group,” the city news release said (download a PDF of the proposed initiative here).

Some observers had suggested that the 4-to-3 split on the current City Council meant that the majority was pushing the measure as a way to pay for the support of various unions at the 2011 election.

In effect, the news release on Monday discounted that thought (download PDF here).

Pay raise to $15
The proposed ordinance would raise minimum wages from the state’s current $9.19 per hour to $15 an hour for all workers defined to be in the hospitality and transportation businesses inside SeaTac.

The wage rate would remain in effect until Jan. 15, 2015 when “this living wage shall be adjusted to maintain employee purchasing power by increasing the current year’s wage rate by the rate of inflation.” That revaluation will take place every year thereafter, the proposal says.

In addition, the proposed ordinance says, “tips, gratuities, service charges and commissions shall not be credited” as part the wage rate. Tips and service fees “shall be retained by or paid to the non-managerial, nonsupervisory … workers who perform (the) services.”

Paid sick and ‘safe time’
If the paid sick time is approved, SeaTac will be the second city in King County to have such a provision since Seattle passed a paid sick leave ordinance in September, 2011.

The SeaTac proposal says, “A covered worker shall accrue at least one hour of paid sick and safe time for every 40 hours worked” and workers “entitled to use any accrued hours of compensated time as soon as those hours have accrued.”

The worker does not need a note from a doctor or any other “certification of illness” to get the full wage sick pay. Any accrued time must be paid to the worker at the end of the year.

Pay for “safe time” is to cover certain needs concerning health problems at a school or because of “domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or to attend to health care treatment.”

Looking for the proposer
A Google search for the “SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs” resulted in no results other than items involving the city’s news release and media reports on this proposal.

The matter may or may not surface at the Tuesday afternoon and evening SeaTac City Council study session or regular Council meeting.

The SeaTac news release Monday said only that the Council would vote on the proposal if the required number of signatures were presented.

The city release said, “It has come to the attention of the City of SeaTac that members of the public may attend upcoming council meetings to comment on the proposed initiative. While the city understands that members of the public may have strong opinions on either side of this issue, it is imperative that city facilities not be used to either promote or oppose any current or proposed ballot measure.”

The release added that under state laws and guidelines “the city wants to advise that members of the public and council shall not give comments regarding a political candidate or a ballot proposition pursuant to RCW 42.17A.555. In the event anyone begins making comments in violation of this statute, any member of the council, city clerk or the city attorney may interrupt with a point of order in order to ensure compliance with state law.”

A critic of the SeaTac Council, and SeaTac Blog columnist Earl Gipson (“The Cactus Speaks”) said he would address the matter at the session.

“I plan on reading the entire Minimum Work Standard Initiative into the Public record on Tuesday with no comment either way and according to my attorneys (who may be with me also), this will not violate any RCW or comment policy. I may be able to do it within 10 minutes (and will have a group) and if not will have another group to finish and another if necessary.”

There was no comment from the city and a call seeking comment from City Manager Todd Cutts was not returned.


Comments

28 Responses to “SeaTac Committee seeks higher minimum wage, employment standards”
  1. Michael T Kovacs says:

    http://www.seataccoverup.com and http://www.takeseatacback.org explain how this is a pay back to the majority 4 on Angle Lake City Council.

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  2. Vicki Lockwood says:

    “it is imperative that city facilities not be used to either promote or oppose any current or proposed ballot measure” … Interesting and so convenient. It’s my understanding that City staff was involved in the final drafting of this ordinance and that at least one Council Member has proudly announced his involvement in the ordinance drafting (he was even significantly tardy to a scheduled meeting between the Planning Commission and the Council because of his involvement in this ordinance … wonder if his election debt will ever be “paid in full” ).

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  3. pam f says:

    As a taxpayer I have a concern about the number of times the city manager and city attorney are assigned actions within this ordinance. To me city action equals use of taxpayer money.

    Some of the actions attributed to the city, and thus using taxpayer money, within this minimum employment standard ordinance are: “receive,” “publish,” “access,” “investigate,” “monitor,” “audit,” “initiate” and “publically request.”

    Aren’t those “actions” usually attributed to whatever Union represents those employees and is collecting dues from those members to do so? Aren’t these matters between Unions/employees and the Employers?

    Should taxpayer money be spent on Union issues—or should taxpayer money be spent on Police and Fire, cleaning up the city, maintaining streets and utilities, and building sidewalks? What was the purpose of SeaTac becoming a city?

    I was raised In a Union family—Teamsters 174. My concerns are not anti Union, but rather PRO SeaTac as a city–for all of us who have our roots here. And for all of those upon whose very backs built SeaTac into what it is today.

    What about the financial health of the entire city of SeaTac? If hospitality and transportation businesses in SeaTac were to go belly up because of likely unintended consequences of this ordinance, how would SeaTac survive without that tax base?

    As taxpayers, everyone should come to their own conclusion of course. I would just remind everyone to logically think it through.

    See below for call outs of city/taxpayer money action in the ordinance:

    C. The City Manager shall publish a bulletin by October 15 of each year announcing the adjusted rates. Such bulletin will be made available to all Hospitality Employers and Transportation Employers and to any other person who has filed with the City Manager a request to receive such notice but lack of notice shall not excuse noncompliance with this section.

    A. Notice to Employees. No less than 60 days prior to the termination of a Predecessor Employer’s contract, the Predecessor Employer shall notify all Retention Employees in writing that they have been placed on a qualified displaced worker list and that the Successor Employer may be required to offer him/her continued employment. The notice shall include, if known, the name, address, and contact information of the Successor Employer. A copy of this notice, along with a copy of the qualified displaced worker list, shall also be sent to the City Manager.

    B. The City Manager shall publish a bulletin by October 15 of each year announcing the adjusted rates. Such bulletin will be made available to all Hospitality Employers and Transportation Employers and to any other person who has filed with the City Manager a request to receive such notice but lack of notice shall not excuse noncompliance with this section.

    A. Notice to Employees. No less than 60 days prior to the termination of a Predecessor Employer’s contract, the Predecessor Employer shall notify all Retention Employees in writing that they have been placed on a qualified displaced worker list and that the Successor Employer may be required to offer him/her continued employment. The notice shall include, if known, the name, address, and contact information of the Successor Employer. A copy of this notice, along with a copy of the qualified displaced worker list, shall also be sent to the City Manager.

    7.45.070 Employee Work Environment Reporting Requirement
    A. Hospitality Employers and Transportation Employers shall retain records documenting hours worked, paid sick and safe time taken by Covered Workers, and wages and benefits provided to each such employee, for a period of two years, and shall allow the City Manager or designee access to such records, with appropriate notice and at a mutually agreeable time, to investigate potential violations and to monitor compliance with the requirements of this Chapter.

    B. The City shall adopt auditing procedures sufficient to monitor and ensure compliance by Hospitality Employers and Transportation Employers with the requirements of this Chapter. Complaints that any provision of this Chapter has been violated may also be presented to the City Attorney, who is hereby authorized to investigate and, if it deems appropriate, initiate legal or other action to remedy any violation of this chapter; however, the City Attorney is not obligated to expend any funds or resources in the pursuit of such a remedy.

    7.45.110 Exceptions
    The requirements of this Chapter shall not apply where and to the extent that state or federal law or regulations preclude their applicability. To the extent that state or federal law or regulations require the consent of another legal entity, such as a municipality, port district, or county, prior to becoming effective, the City Manager is directed to formally and publicly request that such consent be given.

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    • Outside Observer says:

      Councilmember Fernald,

      I could not help but notice that while you posted seven excerpts from the initiative to support your point about city resources, only five of them were actually different. Was there a reason that you included two of the excerpts twice, word-for-word?

      Also, can I assume that Mr. Kovacs’ argument on his own website (see his links) about this initiative raising taxes for SeaTac citizens is related to your statement here? If you are not familiar with his statement, I quote it here:

      “Here is the latest method to destroy SeaTac citizens lives. If these guys come to your door asking to sign this ballot measure to pay only a select group of people $15.00/hour minimum wage in SeaTac please do not sign. Its going to raise your taxes.”

      Thank you in advance for your clarification.

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      • pam f says:

        Oh good grief, dear OO, Clarification schmarification. Obviously I made a cut and paste error–I’m not trying to fool anyone. How could I anyway with anonymous you– ever vigilant on the job to put your know-it-all spin on posts you deem worthy. Thanks for sharing your counting skills with us also…

        Oh good grief, dear OO, Clarification schmarification. Obviously I made a cut and paste error–I’m not trying to fool anyone. How could I anyway with anonymous you– ever vigilant on the job to put your know-it-all spin on posts you deem worthy. Thanks for sharing your counting skills with us also… Oops, another cut and paste error for you to catch.

        AND, don’t ask me about Mr. Kovacs. Ask Mr. Kovacs about what Mr. Kovacs wrote. It’s not my day to watch him. I’m sure you are on someone’s paid staff to write this stuff you come up with, so you shouldn’t be asking me questions–YOU have all the answers.

        What was your name again? “I” couldn’t help but notice that you don’t have the courage to proudly sign your true name to any of these opinions which you post. Oh well. Yawn…

        Have a good evening, non SeaTac taxpayer, or resident–at least that’s what you’ve proclaimed.

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  4. Jack Mayne says:

    A source sent me this web address provided by people going door-to-door to get signatures of the initiative: http://www.future4seatac.org

    That site included this paragraph:

    “Who is covered by the initiative?

    “SeaTac transportation and hospitality workers, including baggage handling, passenger services, cabin cleaning, aircraft fueling, security, retail stores, and car rental and parking lot services in and around the airport. Hotel and food service workers within or at the airport would be included. Small businesses are exempted from the initiative: Retail stores with fewer than 10 workers, hotels with fewer than 30 workers, and other businesses with fewer than 25 workers are all exempt.”

    The proposed ordinance read this way:

    “Restaurants or retail operations that are not located within a hotel, public facility, corporate cafeteria, conference facility or meeting facility are not considered a hospitality employer for the purpose of this Chapter.”

    That appears to mean that an employee at a hotel will get $15 per hour while a cafe on Internatinal Blvd. could pay the minimum state wage of $9.19.

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  5. Janice T says:

    I have many issues with this proposal including economic impact on affected businesses and the City of Seatac’s administrative responsibilities. However, my biggest bone of contention is that it is discriminatory. It is biased to the expressed benefit of only certain job holders in a specific part of the city. (Administrative people? Too bad. Just outside the target area? Suffer.) It is prejudiced against those who have worked their way up job ranks, or who have gained education or training for betterment. It unjustly hands a 66% pay raise to workers who have done nothing to merit such an increase, and, worse, who aren’t expected to improve productivity. (I don’t expect my plane to be cleaner, my baggage better handled, or my waitress more accommodating because of this.) It’s classist in that it allows a certain group of people do not have to work for their wages by the same norms as everyone else. Our state and federal minimum wage laws encompass every citizen. This proposal does not.

    An aside:
    We all really know the who’s, what’s and why’s behind this proposal. To me, that back story is particularly disgusting because of the typical Northwest passive-aggressive manner in which the key players deny the reality and spurn their detractors. If I wanted Chicago politicking, I’d live in Chicago. At least they make no bones they are in contributors’ back pockets.

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    • Outside Observer says:

      Janice Taylor,

      Whose call is it that $9.19 an hour is the proper wage for someone fueling an airplane, or someone cleaning a hotel room? How do you set the value of wages for someone cleaning the cabin of an airplane versus someone doing a similar job elsewhere?

      Does it take more education to clean the bathrooms at an elementary school than it does to clean bathrooms in an airplane? If not, why should the people cleaning school bathrooms get paid more than people who clean the bathrooms on an airplane? Why does the person cleaning bathrooms at an elementary school get healthcare benefits and the person cleaning the bathrooms on the plane doesn’t? Is it that the person cleaning bathrooms at the elementary school works harder? That he’s polished the sinks and toilets to a shinier shine? Or do you think that we should pay school janitors the minimum wage and take away their benefits so they are treated the same as the people who clean airplanes?

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      • Janice T says:

        If the businesses at the airport want unions in their midst, that is their business. It is not up to a City, either its elected officials or it citizens, to force an issue. Similarly, if employees in a school district have unions and pay their people more, that is their call. (Do you have a resentment for elementary school janitors? Just curious. Personally, I think any teacher or support staff at a school deserves more than they make. They’re dealing with our future. Man didn’t fly for centuries, and I’m pretty sure mankind could live without it. To me, education is another issue.) And using your apples to apples comparison, does someone fueling a plane need anymore skill than someone fueling a car? From personal experience, I can say “No”. I’ve flown small planes.

        I’m curious what you do for a living, OO. I’m sure you’ve allowed free market economics dictate your pay and benefits, whether you’re union or not. You probably think you’re worth every penny your paid, if not more. I’m sure others would beg to differ. Perhaps you think pilots are overpaid. I have several pilot friends, and free market currently is dictating their pay scale, meaning today’s pilots get paid much less than those of 20 years ago.

        We could debate back and forth ad nauseum. You have an agenda for Seatac, always have, and you’ll not be swayed h3ll or high water form that agenda, which makes debate fruitless and, therefore, not worth my time. And until some one, though not you, can convince me this proposal is not discriminatory, I’ll have to stick by my original argument.

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        • Outside Observer says:

          Janice,

          I am sorry you do not wish to continue this discussion, but I am gratified that you believe I do not make enough money. I thank you for your support.

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          • Janice T says:

            You obviously do not comprehend what you read. (More reason to not debate you.) I said YOU might think you are worth more. Since you hide your identity and occupation, I cannot make any judgements.

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          • Outside Observer says:

            Janice,

            What you wrote was quite clear; I understood and answered your question. I wasn’t trying to be overly cryptic, but I thought I made my occupation clear with my response. I believe it was you who misunderstood me. Judge as you will.

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          • Janice T says:

            Dide, you never have made your true occupation clear to anyone.

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  6. A.I. Ross says:

    Ensuring that individuals are getting paid a fair wage and are receiving fair benefits for their work sounds fantastic. However, this proposal from the “SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs” is not doing that. What the proposal is doing is pitting our City of SeaTac against the Washington State and Federal labor laws and (mis)appropriating our City resources (our tax dollars and public servant pay-hours) to, essentially, babysit employers and keep their books for them. If passed, this proposal may force many businesses out of our city. Is that what the sponsoring committee wants? -To push businesses out so they can buy up land to build more parking structures? It seriously makes me wonder. WHAT IS THE REAL AGENDA HERE?

    As a lifelong citizen of SeaTac and active member of our community, I urge our elected representatives, the honorable members of the SeaTac City Council, to vote this proposal down. The elements within the proposal will harm our community, not help improve it.

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    • Outside Observer says:

      A.I. Ross,

      I can sympathize with your argument to a certain extent (it would be nice to have more clarity about the city’s responsibilities under this initiative), but some if it seems incredulous as well. The initiative seems to be targeted mainly at workers at the airport as well as the larger hotels and parking and shuttle operations (the size of affected businesses is specified within the wording of the initiative). Since these businesses are tied geographically to the airport, it seems highly unlikely that these businesses would move out of town; imagine trying to move SeaTac Airport’s baggage handling to Renton.

      I know that other large airports and/or cities around airports on the west coast already have similar laws in place. Having lived in California and still having a significant amount of family and friends there, I personally know that similar ordinances are already in place in Los Angeles and San Francisco in relation to the airports there. I would not be surprised if ordinances/initiatives such as this are more widespread than that.

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  7. A.I. Ross says:

    I am as well-informed on this issue as a private citizen can be, having read innumerable documents including and regarding the proposal. The only way to gain more knowledge on this issue would be to question members of the so-called SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs, but we cannot since they choose to remain anonymous. Therein lies a major problem: anonymity. It is one thing not to sign one’s name to a comment/idea/opinion on the Internet but quite another to do so when aiming to dictate how a city operates and dictate how taxpayers’ dollars will be spent.

    I am sure that paying $15+/hour around the LA and SF airports makes sense since those are both high cost-of-living areas in terms of real estate (also note that CA’s minimum wage is $8/hr versus our $9.19/hr). But it makes no sense in the surrounding area here. If support for this proposal involves the rhetorical fallacy, “LA and SF pay $15+/hour so we should too,” then I will respond employing the same fallacy: “LA and SF have elected mayors so we should too.” Just because something works for LA or SF does not mean that it would work for our city.

    Moreover, the airport is not even the City of SeaTac’s jurisdiction; it is the Port of Seattle’s. There is no logical reason as to why we, the citizens of SeaTac, should pay taxes so that the Port’s employees can make more money busing tables, washing rental vehicles, throwing baggage, etc. than many of our public servants and educators make? Perhaps the Port of Seattle should take care of it’s labor/union disputes rather than relying on mine and my neighbor’s tax dollars.

    Again, I ask: How will this proposal help to improve the City of SeaTac for all (or even significant portion) of its citizens?

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    • A.I. Ross says:

      ^ The above was in reply to “Outside Observer.”

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    • Outside Observer says:

      A.I. Ross said:

      “There is no logical reason as to why we, the citizens of SeaTac, should pay taxes so that the Port’s employees can make more money busing tables, washing rental vehicles, throwing baggage, etc. than many of our public servants and educators make?”

      First off, It is my understanding that the city of SeaTac does indeed have jurisdiction over businesses at the airport and gets tax revenue from businesses at the airport (as Pam F. noted in her earlier comment). It has no jurisdiction over airport operations, but does in fact have some jurisdiction over the companies that do business there.

      Furthermore, the Port does not employ baggage handlers and the crews out on the tarmac; those people are employed either directly by the airlines or by companies that are subcontracted by the airlines. Our taxes do not go to pay those people; you are misinformed.

      As for the benefits of having higher-paying jobs in SeaTac, I for one see an obvious benefit in low-income people having more money to spend on consumables at local small businesses, on improving the conditions of their properties, on classes at local community colleges, and having health benefits so my insurance premiums aren’t paying for their trips to the emergency room when a suitcase falls on someone’s head.

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      • A.I. Ross says:

        It has come to my attention that you do not live in SeaTac and, thus, have no vested interest in the condition and wellfare of my city. I am disappointed because I assumed that I was exchanging with a neighbor who had a different view, but, regrettably, I was wasting my time feeding an Internet troll. Therefore, I will not waste time beyond writing this:

        The proposal WILL cost mine and my neighbors’ tax dollars because the City will have to employ more individuals and/or increase hours to execute each criterion within the proposal (example, City Attorney will have to hear employee-employer grievances and, in some cases, rule on them even though the State and Federal governments, let alone the Unions when applicable, already have departments and procedures in place).

        You are working under two glaring assumptions:
        1.That the employees in the would-be affected occupations are all “low-income.” And that is such a relative term, “low-income,” that you could merely be referring to anyone who you think makes less money than you do (semantical, I admit, but valid). We all know that the Port of Seattle and a few unions have had disputes recently, as have employees with their unions. It should not fall on the City of SeaTac to “fix” their problems (it is no mere coincidence that this proposal arose how and when it did). The vast majority of employees within my City’s borders would see no benefit from the proposal and may, in fact, be negatively affected by it.
        2.That all of the employees in the would-be affected occupations live in the City of SeaTac. Sure they may work here, but do they live here? Many of them, like you, do not. And there are no assurances that they would spend their inflated wages here.

        A couple more points to clarify: there is not a community college in SeaTac, so spending on tuition does not benefit the City; improving properties is great, but it only improves SeaTac if they live here, while many do not; the would-be affect employees work are covered for on-the-job injuries by their employers, their unions, and/or the State and Federal government, so your insurance premiums are safe.

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        • Outside Observer says:

          A.I. Ross,

          I am confused by the continued assertion by you, Councilmember Fernald, and others here that someone would not care about the city in which they work. Wouldn’t you like to work in a clean, safe, and vibrant community? I do. I do not live in the city where I work, and yet I feel a very strong connection to that community. And while it’s possible that I may be the exception to the rule (I highly doubt it), I do in fact spend a fair amount of time and money in the community where I work after work hours; more than I spend in the city where I actually live.

          Why should someone who spends their lives serving the members of a community have no say in what goes on in that very same community? How is that fair? How is that even logical?

          As a final aside to Councilmember Fernald: if I spend my hard-earned money in your city, I am contributing to your paycheck. Don’t forget that businesses aren’t the only “people” who do business in “your” city.

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  8. Ronnie B says:

    My thoughts on this might sound like “fence straddling”, but here’s my two cents’ worth…..

    The proposed ordinance reads like an employment standards contract between a union and an employer.

    In the past 35 years, employers have become increasingly savvy and successful at preventing union organizing, and in many cases, at obtaining labor union decertifications. Even though Federal law prohibits retaliation by employers against employees who are attempting to organize a union, at many employers it is common for employees who are thought to be organizing a union to be abruptly terminated from their jobs for “performance” reasons.

    Many of the folks who work in these service-sector jobs might genuinely want to organize with a union, in order to attempt to obtain better wages, benefits and working conditions, but in reality they may well be fed up at being continually out-maneuvered in their attempts at organizing.

    Contrary to stereotypes, some of the folks who work in service-sector jobs in transportation and hospitality are very, very hard workers. The purchasing power of their wages has stagnated in recent years, and the restructuring of the U.S. economy makes it very, very difficult to “move up the career ladder” in the current labor market.

    Frankly, I don’t buy the argument that these transportation and hospitality workers should “just go get a better job”.

    Having said all of that, I’m worried that having the city government involved with setting employment standards sets a bad precedent. Normally, it’s the Legislature and Congress which pass labor & employment laws. The State Dept of Labor & Industries and the U.S. Dept. of Labor enforce those laws.

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  9. Ronnie B says:

    A couple more thoughts: Will the proposed employment ordinance create unintended job losses in our city? Will some some of the hospitality businesses – and their jobs – migrate just across the border into neighboring Tukwila or Des Moines? Is the proposed ordinance discriminatory, in the sense that it only applies to workers employed in certain types of businesses?

    This signature-gathering initiative, if it achieves the signatures, and the proposed ordinance if enacted, will create a lot of heartburn at City Hall. It will be incredibly difficult to administer.

    Come to think of it, five weeks ago the CBS drama “The Good Wife” astutely depicted the dilemma faced by a group of non-union tech-sector workers who were attempting to resolve workplace grievances, who were summarily fired, and ended up going through a very suspenseful NLRB hearings process (represented by Alicia Florrick) only to be out-foxed and out-maneuvered at every stage of the process.

    I’m not specifically advocating in favor of labor unions or collective bargaining, or whether or not these transportation and hospitality workers “should” be unionized. I do want to also say that our city has a lot of really good employers who treat their employees well – and who definitely promote from within, and who offer really great benefits to their employees.

    My point here is to offer some thoughts into why this signature-gathering drive is occurring in our city.

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  10. Ray Overholt says:

    What happened to the old way of getting a wage increase. I understand these two groups are unionized. Seatac council, these two groups do not need to be on the teet. Let the groups do it the old fashion way.

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  11. Conerned Business says:

    Small Business and home owners beware!!! If this ordinance goes through be prepared for higher taxes on your home and a B&O Tax on Business’s. The lost revenue from tax’s from places closing will have to come from somewhere. The council members who were elected who said they were for small business in the community are showing their true colors and are trying to destroy this city!! But what would you expect from a good worker bee who will do what he is told!!

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    • Conerned Business says:

      The worker bee comment courtesy ,Per e-mail from Colleen Brandt- Schuler to Mia Gregerson on Council Member Dave Bush they got their yes man!!

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