Group Says It Has Signatures For Sea-Tac Wage Increase Initiative

Aug. 28--After losing a round in King County Superior Court, the organizers of an initiative to make the SeaTac minimum wage the highest in the nation are intensifying the fight to get the $15-an-hour proposal on the November ballot.

On Monday, King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas reversed an earlier decision by the city of SeaTac and King County Elections that there were enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. Darvas found that the petitions with 2,506 signatures were short of having enough signers because some of the signatures were duplicates. When a duplicate was found, both versions of the signature were thrown out, according to the judge's order.

The initiative ended up 17 signatures short of the required 1,536 needed to put it on the November ballot, said Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for the group (Yes! For SeaTac) sponsoring what is known as the Good Jobs Initiative.

Tuesday, the group submitted 250 more signatures to the city in an attempt to get it back on the November ballot, despite opposition from Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association and smaller businesses in SeaTac.

Weiner said they have asked Darvas to reconsider and also have appealed her decision to the Court of Appeals, asking for an emergency ruling.

The Good Jobs Initiative aims to increase the minimum wage in the city from $9.19 to $15 an hour, making it the highest minimum wage in the U.S. The goal of its supporters is to raise the standard of living for airport workers and other low-skilled employees in the city.

The initiative would also require employers to pay sick leave to employees.

"It's an attempt to make the minimum wage a livable wage,'' said Scott Ostrander, manager of Cedarbrook Lodge and a member of Common Sense SeaTac, the group of businesses opposing the initiative. There was never the legal intent of setting a minimum wage, Ostrander said.

"As with any business, people get paid according to their skill sets and their business,'' Ostrander said. "This is going to impact the entire employee base because you are going to have to put everyone up to a higher wage.''

Other businesses have complained that the increased cost would force them to close down.

One of the organizers of the campaign is the Rev. Jan Bolerjack, of Riverton United Methodist Church. Six years ago, she came to the church and noticed the lines at the church's food bank were filled with airport workers -- people with jobs whose income was so low they could not afford food or to support their families.

"These people are underpaid and insecure,'' she said. "Some work split shifts, which affect their family life."

The problems created by the low wages "trickle down and affect the whole community,'' she said. Getting behind the initiative "just seemed like the right thing to do.''

Nancy Bartley: nbartley@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8522

Copyright 2013 - The Seattle Times

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