Editor’s note: As this issue went to press, Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit seeking to block the SeaTac City Council from sending the initiative to voters. See next’s week’s issue for more coverage of this developing story.
SeaTac voters will likely vote this November on a proposal to set a $15-an-hour minimum wage for people working at Sea-Tac Airport and surrounding hospitality businesses.
If this passes, SeaTac would establish the first city-based minimum wage in Washington state.
First, the SeaTac City Council must vote to put the initiative on the ballot. The council will vote on whether to do so at 6:30 p.m, July 23 at SeaTac City Hall, 4800 S 188th St.
Some on the seven-person council strongly oppose the initiative.
“Many of the businesses in our community will not be able to survive [the proposed change], and I think it’s wrong,” Councilmember Terry Anderson said at a July 9 council study session, where the initiative was first discussed.
If they don’t want to pass it themselves, the councilmembers have no choice but to put the issue to voters. The SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs, which proposed the initiative, collected 2,500 signatures this spring to propose the initiative. Now, the city council can either accept the initiative as proposed or put it on the ballot.
Barring any prohibitions by the states in which they are located, cities are allowed to set a minimum wage, but few have done it. San Francisco established one in 2004, now at $10.24 an hour.
The proposed SeaTac minimum wage applies to a limited subset of businesses: those related to the airport or service industries that exist because of the 30 million people who travel through the airport each year, including airlines, hotels, car rental companies and restaurants located at Sea-Tac Airport.
At $15 an hour, workers in and around the airport would make a similar wage to other West Coast airport employees. Employees at airports in San Francisco, LA, San Jose and Oakland make between $12.43 and $15.37 an hour.
Some business owners say they’ll oppose the initiative.
Scott Ostrander, general manager of Cedarbrook Lodge, located just east of the airport, told the SeaTac City Council July 6 that the higher minimum wage would force him to lay off employees and stop serving free meals to staff, which he said is sometimes the only meal they have in a day.
“This is not good for business, not good for economic development, it’s not good for the people who need it the most,” Ostrander said.
Some councilmembers agreed and said it was rash even to send the proposal to voters. They wanted more time for public input.
“We’re going to rush to judgment here without hearing what ... voters feel on this,” Anderson said.
They likely will hear from voters in November.