Hot Off the Grill: Trio of local government issues emerges

Hot Off the Grill: Trio of local government issues emerges

Mandatory paid sick leave debate comes to Tacoma
The Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI), a nonprofit in Seattle that drove the paid sick leave efforts in Seattle, has set up shop in Tacoma through a group called “Health Tacoma” and, along with one City Council Member from West Tacoma Anders Ibsen, is now trying to convince the Tacoma City Council to mandate paid sick leave in Tacoma. The WRA and other business coalition partners, including the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber have come together to give the business community a voice and to contribute actual facts and data to the conversation. This coalition also is educating the Council and community that since Seattle’s sick leave mandate went into effect last September, restaurant operators have had to make some very difficult decisions to be able to budget for the increased cost. Examples include loss of salary increases, health benefits, education assistance and work-hours for employees. As an industry that relies on high volumes and has extremely low profit margins, the passage of this ordinance in Tacoma could yield some of the same unfortunate results experienced so far in Seattle.

The coalition will continue to aggressively engage in this debate, while working to ensure that the collective restaurant voice is heard as the discussion continues among both the City Council and the community. You can find the draft provisions of the ordinance here and here, and if you would like to join our coalition and be kept up-to-speed on this issue in Tacoma, please let Josh McDonald on our team know at

Seattle’s criminal background check ordinance sees many rewrites, likely to come before committee Wednesday
The WRA has been working closely with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce since last September on Councilman Bruce Harrell’s proposal to restrict how employers use criminal background checks in the hiring process. In its original draft, the proposal would require employers to wait until a conditional hire is made before the check can be done. This has changed significantly to where a background check can be done after the first screening of candidates is complete. The remaining concerns the WRA has with the ordinance as currently drafted include:

  • Allowing the Office of Civil Rights to enter businesses and audit hiring practices without a formal complaint filed.
  • Requiring that an employer hold a position open for 48 hours before filling the position if a candidate was no longer considered because of his or her criminal background check. The reasoning here is to allow the person to come back in and explain why they committed the felony. No other type of citizen in Seattle has this amount of protection during a hiring process.
  • Requiring an employer to walk through a series of checks when considering a candidate and deciding whether that person is a good hire if a background check is used in the decision-making process. For example, an employer would have to know for sure that this person would put other employees or customers in harm’s way and would possibly have to explain him or herself to the Office of Civil Rights if that person is not hired and a complaint is filed later on.

Councilman Harrell’s criminal background check ordinance will most likely be heard again in his Public Safety Committee this coming Wednesday, June 5. If you are interested in joining us at the hearing, including testifying before the committee if so desired, please contact Josh McDonald at

Proposal for living wage surfaces in SeaTac
Earlier this month, area labor unions revealed an initiative targeted at businesses in the City of SeaTac, particularly businesses inside SeaTac Airport.  The initiative contains the following features:

  • Establishes a minimum living wage of $15/hour – which is adjusted annually based on the CPI-W index.
  • Requires employers to provide paid sick leave benefits
  • Establishes requirements for worker retention and hiring that favor employees under collective bargaining agreements.

The initiative would apply only to restaurants inside of hotels, rental car companies, airline support services (e.g. baggage handlers, gate personnel, etc.), hotels in the City of SeaTac and parking businesses. The initiative would not apply to “stand alone” restaurants outside the airport, or to other manufacturing or service businesses outside of the airport. There is an interesting question of whether the City can regulate wage and labor policies over the Port of Seattle (who operates the airport).  The initiative appears to recognize that uncertainty; it simply contains language expressing an expectation that the Port of Seattle will abide by, and adopt, the same policies for businesses operating in the airport (including many restaurants and foodservice vendors). Read on.