UPDATE: Judge denies injunction to stop SeaTac initiative from being put on Nov. ballot
UPDATE:Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association failed Friday, July 19 to convince a King County Superior Court judge to halt the SeaTac council from placing the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.
HERE IS OUR PREVIOUS COVERAGE:
There was only a week’s notice but the place was packed.
Proponents and opponents of a proposed ordinance that would set a minimum wage of $15 per hour and other employment conditions for some airport transportation and hospitality workers testified at SeaTac City Council chambers on July 16 in a town hall meeting.
The SeaTac City Council is expected on July 23 to formally put the measure on the Nov. 5 SeaTac election ballot. Because the initiative received the required amount of petition signatures, the lawmakers only other choice would have been to adopted the ordinance outright without a citizens’ vote. They refused to do that at their July 9 study session.
Two separate proceedings on Friday, July 19 could halt the council’s action. One is a review of the validity of the signatures by King County Elections. Aug. 6 is the deadline for placing measures on the November ballot.
The other possible roadblock is a hearing on a lawsuit filed by Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association to block the council from sending the ordinance to the voters. Visit www.highlinetimes.com for updates.
At the town hall meeting, ordinance opponents announced the formation of a committee to fight the measure. The committee is called Common Sense SeaTac and is co-chaired by Cedarbrook Lodge general manager Scott Ostrander and retired Southtowne Auto rebuild owner Mike West.
Ostrander called the measure “special favors legislation.”
He warned about the inititiative’s “unintended consequences.
“If it looks too good to be true, it is,” Ostrander declared.
In a point repeated several times during the evening, Ostrander noted the proposed minimum wage of $15 per hour would be a 63 percent increase over the current state minimum wage.
One hotel manager said his employees are happy and turnover is low. He said ordinance proponents don’t understand the pressures on businesses.
The SeaTac Holiday Inn manager said the family who owns the facility is planning to build three more major-brand hotels in the city and Cedarbrook is looking at expansion. He said that new economic development would not happen if the measure is approved.
In a battle of young policy wonks, Howard Greenwich, research and policy director for Puget Sound Sage, said he conducted a study of west coast cities where similar measures were enacted and airport, hotels and concessions are doing well while Max Nelsen, labor policy analyst for Freedom Foundation in Olympia, said the vast majority of academic research shows that raising the minimum wage hurts employment, especially among low-skill workers.
Greenwich said at Los Angeles International Airport, which has the highest minimum wage for airport workers, business has grown substantially. Alaska Airlines, which filed the SeaTac suit, is increasing its investment in Los Angeles, according to Greenwich.
He admitted that the easing of the recession may have played a role in Los Angeles’ upturn but said airport workers with more money to spend at local businesses will help create more jobs.
Nelsen countered that there is not a lot of good data linking the wage increases at west coast airports to their economic improvement.
He said that even if workers spend more because of higher wages, business profits don’t increase overall because business are paying more for labor costs.
Episcopal priest Dick Gillett said the minimum wage issue is not just an economic decision but a human rights decision, too.
He said he has heard many stories from workers who are struggling to get by on $9 an hour while Alaska Airlines keeps recording double-digit increases in profits.
“You can make a profit and still be moral,” Gilllet declared.
Louise Strander. board chair of the Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce, said approval of the measure would hurt SeaTac’s economy and cause a downward business spiral.