The Cactus Speaks: Job Killer Goes to Ballot

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by Earl Gipson is a view of SeaTac city government. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff. We are seeking additional regular columnists to reflect opinions and views of SeaTac residents. Those interested can e-mail us at [email protected].]

by Earl Gipson

We will have before the SeaTac voters in November an ordinance that the City of SeaTac shall dictate to SeaTac private businesses what they will pay their employees, who they have to hire, and the benefits they must provide. The City will also administer the entire thing. How did this get this far? Well let’s see if I can explain.

Outside union interests bought SeaTac’s 2011 election. For this initiative the secretive SEIU (Service Employees International Union) backed the various groups Working Washington, Unite Here, and the initiative sponsors with personnel, contributions, etc. to collect signatures (many invalid) to force this to the ballot or have their indebted Council members enact it without a vote of the people.

The opening public comments and the council’s discussion of the Job Killing Mandatory Wage and Benefits Initiative (the actual title is longer so for brevity, there’s my summary) Agenda Bill #3526 (enacting ordinance) and Agenda Bill #3527 (sending it to the voters) were made to a full house in the Council Chambers Tuesday. Of course the audience is never shown on the video and from what I understand that is by design when a lot of people are there. Council Member Ladenburg (a known advocate of the ordinance) didn’t bother to show up for the meeting and City Manager Todd Cutts was also absent (job interviews perhaps?).

In Public Comments, Scott Ostrander, manager of Cedarbrook Lodge and SeaTac resident, gave a passionate analysis of how much this ordinance will hurt his own employees and that they will simply lose their jobs if enacted and that all of them are paid above the minimum wage as it stands now.

The indebted Council Members avoided taking any responsibility by procedural methodology orchestrated by un-elected Mayor Anderson. In the first act of procedural fun un-elected Mayor Tony Anderson limited the other Council members to one question each on agenda bill #3527 enacting the ordinance. I don’t even think that’s within their own Council rules. However, none of the Council members spoke up to contest this limitation on one of the most important issues before the SeaTac Council ever. The second act of procedure is that he did not “call for the question” i.e. a vote of the Council so that we all know who is for and/or against this invasive ordinance. A couple of things we know is that Council Member Bush signed the petition and then spoke against it at the Rotary meeting. I’ll give him credit for signing the petition since none of the other guilty parties did, but to speak against it at the Rotary Meeting? Then he made a specific point Tuesday that the Council had nothing to do with drafting this ordinance. Ok. Let’s go with that for now.

It is rumored that Council Member Ladenburg did help draft the ordinance but that has yet to be verified. Stay tuned as the politicians attempt to distance themselves and we find out differently. We will find out because of that old adage “two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead.”

A special “Town Hall” meeting will be held this coming Tuesday to discuss the Initiative 5:30 PM at City Hall. Should be fun.

Anyhow in other news Council Member Mia Gregerson and SeaTac City Employee Colleen Brandt Schluter were fined by the PDC for illegal activities (RCW violations) in the 2009 election (took a while, didn’t it?). More on that later as the PDC releases the full report/summary.


3 Responses to “The Cactus Speaks: Job Killer Goes to Ballot”
  1. Michael T Kovacs says:

    This will help provide more information and clarity to the last paragraph in the Cactus Column. Technical hint: You will need Apple Quicktime to listen if you have Microsoft Windows.

  2. A.I. Ross says:

    Friends, Neighbors, Fellow Citizens of SeaTac:

    I will not be able to make it to the meeting tomorrow evening but wished to share some points for consideration. Although I am sure that knowledgeable opponents of the issue at hand are already aware of the information I share below, I decided it may be prudent to post this message–share my perspective on the so-called “Good Jobs Initiative” as an educator.

    In addition to numerous reasons why I oppose the initiative under discussion (including but not limited to the facts that, one, it will hurt businesses in SeaTac and, two, it will require tax dollars and city-employee hours to enforce and implement), this initiative would threaten the value of education. I respect and appreciate the men and women who work in the would-be affected fields (baggage handlers for example), but those jobs are low-skill and do not require high-education. At $15 an hour, full-time employees in those fields would earn, before taxes, $31,200 annually (calculated by multiplying the proposed wage by a 40-hour work week for 52 weeks). By comparison, the average salary for a starting K-12 teacher–a career that requires a high level of education and, for advancement and job security, additional degrees–in Washington State is $36,474 before taxes (gleaned from the most current information available from the National Education Association). And I, a non-tenured lecturer at a university with multiple advanced degrees, make less than $23,000 annually.

    Do proponents of the initiative believe that low-skill, low-education jobs should be in the same salary range as careers in high-skill and/or high-education fields? Many of us urge children to strive to further their education so that they have the opportunity for better-paying jobs–careers. But if little Bobby or little Sally could drop out of high school and get a high-paying job at/near the airport (earning money immediately and not incurring student loan debt, etc.) then those children may do just that.

    I would love for everyone to earn a decent living wage and am sure that most people feel the same way. But some of us (myself included) decide to take up jobs or careers knowing full well that they don’t have a high base income (personally, I love my job in spite of the low pay and budget to ensure that I live comfortably). It is not the community’s responsibility to force my employer to give me a raise nor is it the community’s responsibility to use its City employees to enforce what this initiative calls for (ultimately costing the community all-important tax dollars).

    Rather than using tax dollars to ensure a select group of employers are giving employees a large pay increase, why not invest those tax dollars back into the community (as intended)? -Help to improve education, community sport programs, public works projects, crime and fire fighting and prevention, community-building events, small business growth, etc.?

    I hope that my fellow citizens of SeaTac, my neighbors, my friends, will vote against this initiative as I intend to do. A vote AGAINST the so-called “Good Jobs Initiative” is a vote FOR the greater good: the needs of the community ought to outweigh the wants of a select few. Thank you for your time.

    Most sincerely,
    A. I. Ross, educator and life-long SeaTac resident

  3. Ron Bensley, Jr. says:

    Due to a personal scheduling conflict, I may not be able to attend tonight’s Regular Council Meeting to offer comment regarding Agenda Bill 3527.

    At this time, I am offering to the Council in writing my concerns about, and objections to, this Agenda Bill and the proposed Ordinance, and specifically authorize this to be incorporated into the public record as to testimony offered by the public at tonight’s meeting. I also authorize Council members to quote my testimony as authorized by applicable State Law.

    I have spoken eloquently in the past regarding the growing gap between the rich and the poor in America – but make no mistake, I think this Resolution calling for a special municipal election to be held on November 5, 2013 regarding a proposed Ordinance Setting MInimum Employment Standards is fundamentally WRONG.

    It is BAD PUBLIC POLICY to have the local municipal government effectively acting as a collective bargaining agent for private-sector workers.

    The true and correct lawmaking bodies to enact employment-standards laws are the United States Congress and the Washington State Legislature.

    The true and correct agencies to handle employment-standards matters are the U.S. Department of Labor and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

    Please keep in mind that if this misguided proposed Ordinance were to be passed, it WILL be challenged in the courts. This will force the City of SeaTac to incur significant legal expenses involved in defending itself, including not only the costs of a King County Superior Court action but also likely appeals to the Court of Appeals and even to the State Supreme Court. Such litigation is VERY EXPENSIVE.

    The City of SeaTac’s insurance carrier might not assist the City in paying costs of litigation defense.

    It is quite possible that given that an insurance carrier could take the position that the City Council, by stepping outside of its authority, “failed to mitigate their damages”. A consequence of such a decision could be the issuance of a “Reservation of Rights” letter by City’s insurance carrier, which would either denying or limiting the insurer’s financial responsibility for paying the City’s legal bills, and possibly also deny payment of any indemnity arising from a legal judgment assessed against the City by a Court of law or other trier of fact.

    I’m sorry if some valued friends on the City Council don’t agree with me on this subject. For the record, my own personal political values fall smack-dab-in-the-middle between those of the 4-member Council majority and the 3-member Council minority (Fernald, Forschler and Terry Anderson).

    I honestly am convinced this measure will have a horrible adverse impact on job opportunities within the City of SeaTac. My objections to this matter are not intended as a direct criticism of members of the Council’s 4-member majority.

    Passage of this initiative, even though it ostensibly is targeted only for workers in certain travel-related and aviation-related businesses, would become a “gold mine” for neighboring communities like Tukwila and Renton, who will become beneficiaries as many businesses and jobs flee SeaTac.

    One more consequence of passing this initiative is that by artificially jacking up the wages and benefits of low-skill entry-level workers, it will effectively discriminate against individuals such as myself who worked our butts off to obtain a Bachelor’s degree and some post-graduate education, who in this recessionary economy are not earning an enormous amount more in compensation than what this Minimum Wage Employment Initiative would award to lower-skilled, less-educated workers.

    The City Council should observe out that starting salaries for public school teachers – who are required not only to obtain a Bachelor’s degree but some sort of post-graduate university training required to obtain a teaching certificate – are only marginally higher than the “Minimum Wage” granted to folks who truly haven’t undertaken the kind of personal sacrifices (including massive financial outlays) required to earn college and university degrees.

    Ultimately, Agenda Bill 3527 opens the door to a potential massive loss of jobs from the City of SeaTac, and opens the door to very expensive litigation for the City that will be much more costly than many of the Council members are likely to anticipate.

    I support the efforts of the City Council to alleviate the hardships faced by the working poor in our City, but for the reasons noted above, I implore each of the Council members to REJECT Agenda Bill 3527.

    The City Council should REJECT Agenda Bill 3527, as should the general public in the City of SeaTac. The proposed Ordinance Setting MInimum Employment Standards constitutes a tragically-misguided and legally-flawed measure, and should be clearly rejected by the City Council.