SeaTac Minimum Wage Hike Goes into Effect, Yet Many Are Left Out

Yesterday, workers at large hotels and car services outside the SeaTac International Airport, just south of Seattle, became eligible for a wage increase to $15 an hour after a groundbreaking ballot initiative to significantly raise the minimum wage passed last November.

A judge in the King County Superior Court last week suspended the part of the law that would cover 4,700 people who work within the airport itself, saying that the airport is technically a separate jurisdiction belonging to the Port of Seattle, even though those workers were major proponents of the measure. As it stands now, the law covers 1,600 people who work at hotels and car services outside the airport.

Employees of airport contractors are appealing the county judge’s decision and filed a “petition for discretionary review” with the Washington State Supreme Court on Dec. 31.

The Yes for SeaTac coalition reports that while Alaska Airlines operates hundreds of flights at those other airports that pay living wages, such as the Los Angeles International Airport, Alaska Airlines is the main plaintiff in the lawsuit to take away living wages and paid sick days from the 4,700 SeaTac workers. Alaska Airlines recently reported its best quarter ever and the airline’s 18th consecutive quarterly profit, with $157 million in profits in just three months.

Answers to frequently asked SeaTac questions are available on this new website.

Photo by Yes for SeaTac on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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What Happens When a Job Won’t Lift You Out of Poverty?

We’re seeing it happen all over the country. Walmart associates are speaking out against erratic hours and low wages, fast-food workers are striking for a living wage, and in states and cities all over the United States, workers are taking action to raise the minimum wage.

Check out this video below by MSNBC’s Krystal Ball, who discusses recent victories like the SeaTac minimum wage raise to $15 (which has been challenged in court) and covers a quick labor history lesson on the importance of having a voice on the job:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Will Seattle Join SeaTac With a $15 Minimum Wage?

As previously reported, SeaTac, a small town outside of Seattle, voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour on Nov. 5. The victory was confirmed Tuesday after a recount and will go into effect after a corporate-backed lawsuit over the wage is resolved. Now working family activists in Washington State are hoping to ride the success of the SeaTac vote to Seattle, and they’ve found support from the mayor and the majority of City Council members.

“We’re carrying the $15 victory from SeaTac to the destination of our next victory,” said Working Washington spokeswoman Sage Wilson.

The council set aside $100,000 for a study, to be completed by June, of a $15 wage. Mayor-elect Ed Murray (D) said he will bring labor and business groups into the discussion about the increase, which he said should be phased in over time to give employers time to adjust. Socialist council member-elect Kshama Sawant said she wants the process to happen more quickly and suggested she would pursue a ballot initiative on the $15 wage in 2014.

Photo via @SeaTimesPhoto on Twitter

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Ways SeaTac’s New Worker-Friendly Law Will Change People’s Lives

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On Nov. 5, the voters of SeaTac, a small suburban community near Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., voted to provide workers for the town’s larger airport-related businesses a minimum wage of $15 per hour, 63% higher than the state’s current minimum wage of $9.19. (Although the measure passed, there may be a recount.)  Here are seven ways the new measure would change the lives of the workers detailed in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal:

1. Allow employees to live closer to where they work and cut down on commute times. “I wouldn’t have to take a two-hour commute,” said Eric Frank, a baggage handler who lives an hour away. With the pay increase, workers would be able to afford housing closer to the job.

2. Give employees with families more time with their loved ones. The raise would allow some workers, like Chris Smith, to take care of their families on one salary and not have to work two jobs, freeing up their schedules so they can spend more time with family.

3. Allow some employees who don’t get much time off to actually have weekends. “My weekend is like a sale at the Bon Marché—one day only,” Smith said.

4. Decrease working families’ reliance on community food banks to provide for their families. The Rev. Jan Bolerjack, pastor at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, said she regularly sees airport workers in uniform using her church’s food banks. “They get off of work and then have to come wait in the rain or cold or worse…just so they can put food on the table,” she said.

5. Give part-time workers the opportunity to get more hours. The law requires businesses to offer more hours to part-time workers before bringing in new part-time workers when more shifts become available.

6. Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs. The law requires the businesses to provide up to 6.5 days a year of paid sick leave to employees who work full-time.

7. Protect airport travelers from illnesses by allowing sick workers to stay home.

Profitable companies such as Alaska Airlines are supporting a lawsuit to overturn the law and the will of the people and are seeking a recount on the measure, which passed by 77 votes.

Photo by Yes! For SeaTac on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Just Two Weeks After New Jersey and SeaTac Minimum Wage Elections, Big Milestone Reached in Massachusetts

Just two weeks after voters in New Jersey and SeaTac, Washington voted to raise the minimum wage, a Massachusetts coalition to enact a similar ballot measure announced a major milestone.

Raise Up Massachusetts announced Monday that over 10 weeks, they have collected approximately 269,059 signatures to get a statewide minimum wage increase and an earned sick time on the 2014 ballot.

Only 68,911 verified signatures are required.

“The numbers show just how many Massachuetts voters stand with families who need a higher minimum wage and earned sick time,” said SEIU Local 509 President Susan Sousignant.

Kim Rivera, an activist from Springfield, has collected 853 signatures toward the goal. “When I explain that the minimum wage is only $8 an hour and almost one million workers in Massachusetts can’t earn a single day of sick time, people were eager to sign.”

If passed, the measures would do three things: a.) increase the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour over two years; b.) index future increases to inflation; and c.) allow all workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.

Similar efforts are underway in Idaho, Alaska, and South Dakota.

Raising the minimum wage isn’t just good policy, it could also be good politics. The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center found that overall voter turnout is 7 to 9 percent higher in midterm elections when wage initiatives are on the ballot.

These initiatives also often cross party lines. In New Jersey two weeks ago, voters voted overwhelmingly to raise the minimum wage even while many also voted to reelect Gov. Chris Christie, who himself vetoed a minimum wage increase earlier this year.

In SeaTac, Washington, a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour is leading by only 46 votes.

Photo by Raise Up Massachusetts on Facebook

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Votes Are Still Being Counted In This Crucial Minimum Wage Race

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Election Night 2013 has come and gone, but the outcomes of some very important races have yet to be determined.

In the Seattle-area city of SeaTac, home of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and allow workers to earn paid sick days looked victorious on Election Night with roughly 54 percent. But with Washington’s vote-by-mail system, votes are still trickling in, and the result is far from over.

After the totals were updated on Wednesday night, the “Yes on Proposition 1” vote to raise the wage lead by only 19 votes out of roughly 6,000 cast, about 0.3 percent. On Thursday night, the “Yes” lead climbed to 53 votes — still an outrageously slim margin.

As the Slog reports, there are about 300 ballots left to count “but since these could come from anywhere, they defy prediction.”

The vote SeaTac has big implications. More immediately, it could influence the chances of a similar brewing $15 minimum wage proposal in nearby Seattle. But it could also serve as a model for other small municipalities, particularly those with airports or other large low-wage institutions, to launch their own pro-worker SeaTac-esque campaigns.

The Koch Brothers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Restaurant Association are all well-aware of this. That’s why even in his small city of 25,000 people, spending on the Proposition 1 race equaled roughly $300 per voter.

The remaining 300 ballots will be counted in the next few days, after which the measure will certainly go to court. But the no amount of money can change this: idea has been planted.

Photo by Yes for SeaTac on Facebook

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The Big Koch Brothers’ Loss You Didn’t Hear About

SeaTac, Washington. Have you heard of it? Unless you’re from the area, you probably only know the town from its most well-known business: the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, also known as Sea-Tac.

But on Tuesday, the working class suburb of SeaTac put its name on the map in a big way. By a narrow margin, they sent a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour on track to victory.

For the more than 6,500 full- and part-time employees at the Sea-Tac Airport, this is welcome news. From servers and cooks at airport restaurants to the baggage handlers and other airline employees, many Sea-Tac workers are forced by necessity to work two low-wage jobs, and very few can afford to take off work when they get sick.

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And they aren’t earning low wages because they aren’t doing their jobs — quite the opposite. 33 million travelers spent a whopping $180 million at the airport last year. Alaska Airlines, headquartered at Sea-Tac, has posted record profits. The Anthony’s restaurant at Sea-Tac is the top-grossing airport restaurant in North America. They have more than earned a raise.

It’s worth noting too that minimum wage increases have not hampered business in other airport cities like Albuquerque, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, or Santa Fe.

Yet, this was a heated, expensive battle. In the town of 25,000 people, spending on both sides equaled approximately $300 per likely voter. The National Restaurant Association threw in $50,000 opposing the measure, on top of $60,000 spent by its Washington affiliate. Two of the biggest forces involved in the race will come as no surprise: ALEC and the Koch Brothers.

If you want a good indication of how much is truly riding on SeaTac’s $15 an hour minimum wage initiative, you need look no further than who is fighting it: The ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)…Two of our nation’s most powerful right-wing political forces are joining together to fight and kill the $15 an hour minimum wage movement in tiny SeaTac before it has an opportunity to take root.

The Kochs and their allies understand that when the town of SeaTac experiences an economic boom from this wage increase, which Puget Sound Sage estimates at $54 million, it will only invigorate efforts to raise the wage in other cities and towns, or even nationally.

The Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, right-wing think tanks, and the billionaires that make up the so-called business community that opposes wage increases, sick days ordinances, and improvements for workers at every turn, is running out of excuses to keep saying “No.” The SeaTac vote is another chink their well-funded armor.

Photo by Yes! For SeaTac on Facebook

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Working Families See Big Wins in Tuesday’s Elections

Yesterday, working families saw major wins in the elections held in New York, Virginia, Boston, Ohio and New Jersey.

The impact of grassroots power was especially evident in the groundbreaking minimum wage increase in New Jersey.

In Boston, voters elected union member Marty Walsh (D) for mayor. In Virginia, a bellwether state, Terry McAuliffe (D) won the governorship. In Ohio, Cincinnati voters overwhelmingly–78% to 2%–defeated a city charter amendment that would have eliminated the defined benefit pension plan for newly hired city employees. And in New York City, voters elected Bill de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor in more than two decades.

Union City’s Chris Garlock spoke with Northern Virginia Area Labor Federation President Daniel Duncan who talked about the importance of working families turning out to vote, “We did our part in Northern Virginia and I’m just so proud of everyone who showed up and helped out.”

Garlock writes:

Union members, staff and leaders had crisscrossed the state yesterday in a final effort to turn out the labor vote for union-endorsed candidates. “No vote can be taken for granted,” said Roxie Mejia, director of Political Affairs for Painters and Allied Trades District Council 51. “Electing labor-friendly folks makes all the difference,” District Council 51 Business Agent Lynn Taylor said.

New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech reflects on the raise the wage campaign working families waged in New Jersey:

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to fight on the front lines of an epic battle to raise the state minimum wage, and did so as a founding partner of the statewide grassroots coalition Working Families United for New Jersey Inc., which united the efforts of 256 labor, community, religious, civil rights, student, progressive, women and retirees groups as part of the “Raise the Wage” campaign….Raising the minimum wage was an unequivocal victory for the labor movement that will give hardworking men and women a financial boost and raise the standard of living for all working families.

Read more from the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.

New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez says:

Today, New York City’s labor movement took a stand against 12 years of austerity politics that have taken precedence over the needs of everyday New Yorkers. Together with our affiliates, we took to the streets to make our voices heard, and together, we voted against policies and deals designed to favor the wealthy, while ignoring the needs of our cities working families….Throughout the five boroughs, residents cast their votes for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio, a man who understands the severity of our city’s income equality problem, and who is ready to tackle that problem head-on.

In Washington State, another groundbreaking minimum wage increase ballot measure affecting more than 6,000 low-wage airport workers is currently leading, but votes are still being counted. The measure would increase the minimum wage for SeaTac workers to $15.00 an hour and would provide sick days and other benefits.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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