Efforts to overturn Seattle’s historic $15 minimum wage law are causing a stir with the help of some prominent Capitol Hill food+drink business owners. On Thursday, the group Forward Seattle filed for a charter amendment that would supplant the standing $15 minimum wage law with a $12.50 minimum, phased in over five years.
According to city records, Forward Seattle has been steadily raising money in an effort to get its $12.50 ballot measure before voters. Currently the group has raised $9,000 with the help of donations from Liberty Bar owner Andrew Friedman ($500) and Poquitos co-owner Rich Fox ($250). PubliCola has more on who has donated what. Poquitos is a CHS advertiser and Liberty has mixed us a few mighty fine old fashioneds here and there.
Although the group filed to get the measure on the ballot this November, it would have to wait until next year as citizen-sponsored charter amendments can only go to a vote on odd years. Turns out, that’s the same ballot schedule 15 Now’s proposed charter amendment would need to cleave to should it be carried forward.
It appears the campaign only learned this week their ballot measure wouldn’t be eligible for this year’s election. “It was a surprise to us,” said Jeff Upthegrove, treasurer of 15 Now.
The push to undo Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage plan is intended to protect small businesses and the “most vulnerable organizations,” according to a statement on Forwardseattle.org. “Adopting a less extreme increase over a five-year period will provide a material increase in income for minimum-wage workers now, while allowing the small-business community and most vulnerable organizations time to adjust. This will be beneficial to all over the long-run.”
David Rolf, SEIU 775 President and co-chair of the mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee, released a statement Thursday calling for Forward Seattle to release the names of their donors (they are publicly available here):
Despite widespread agreement among the Seattle business and labor community not to pursue competing ballot initiatives and overwhelming public support for the ordinance just passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, a fringe group of right-wing ideologues in the business community today showed that they will stop at nothing to prevent workers from earning a living wage. This is selfish, short-sighted, and stupid. Those of us on the IIAC who worked tirelessly for months to produce a plan that works for labor and business are deeply disappointed to see others pursuing plans that would weaken the gains for our community. We certainly don’t expect them to succeed.
The backlash to the backlash has also been quite palpable, with lots of debating over social media.
Well, @legalmindedpunk, you’re right about that.. But, once I put my neck out there, I’m now in a position of having to defend myself.
— Liberty (@LibertyLovesYou) June 5, 2014
CHS first reported on Forward Seattle in April and their counter-plan to the Kshama Sawant-led $15 proposal.
And what’s an initiative scramble without Tim Eyman getting involved? Days after the city council unanimously passed its $15 an hour bill, Eyman filed his Fair and Uniform Minimum Wage act. The initiative seeks to prevent Seattle and other cities in the state from raising the minimum wage and would give that power solely to the state legislature. In order for the initiative to go to the legislature, Eyman would need to collect some 250,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, organizers with 15 Now continue to gather signatures for its threatened charter amendment that would implement an ever more robust $15 minimum wage in Seattle, with shorter phase-ins and no tip credits. And they’re planning a party.
15 Now’s “Victory Party” starts at 6:30 PM Friday night at Washington Hall. Go get phased-in.
UPDATE: CHS erroneously attributed ownership of the wrong E Olive Way bar to Friedman. He is owner of not yet open Good Citizen. We apologize for the error.