Living wage initiative targets SeaTac

During May, 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 Sea Tac 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).

All reports suggest that proponents have gathered the required 1,500 voter signatures to put the measure before the SeaTac City Council. King County election officials are currently validating the signatures.  If, indeed, the requisite number of signatures has been gathered, the initiative will go before the SeaTac City Council within the next 4-6 weeks.  The Council only has two choices: (1) take no action – in which case it will appear on the November ballot in SeaTac , or, (2) adopt the initiative as written (no changes) and it goes into effect at that time.

Political Environment

The City of Sea Tac is dominated by SeaTac airport and businesses engaged in supporting the airlines and traveling public.  There are relatively few registered voters in the City – so any campaign must be targeted to reach those few voters.

The City Council has seven members.  Labor and progressive activists worked very hard in the last election to seat two members who worked on the initiative effort.  Three members are considered moderate, to pro business members.  When initiative backers were gathering signatures, their message was to let the voters decide on this issue.  Accordingly, businesses in SeaTac are expected to reach out to Council members and encourage them to (1) not adopt the initiative and (2) allow it to be decided upon by the voters.

Next Steps

The WRA is working with impacted businesses, local chambers of commerce, hotel and lodging groups, airlines and other organizations to develop a strategy to respond to the initiative.