U.S. Labor official comes to our Capitol Hill to support I-1433 statewide minimum wage boost

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Cupcake Royale owner Jody Hall, Deputy Secretary Chris Lu, GSBA president Louise Chernin, and Mayor Ed Murray were on Capitol Hill to back I-1433. (Image: CHS)

President Barack Obama never got a chance to enact a federal minimum wage increase or paid sick leave law, but a senior administration official visiting Capitol Hill Thursday said his boss is happy to see Seattle and, hopefully, Washington state take the lead.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu joined a media event at E Pine’s Greater Seattle Business Association to support I-1433, the statewide initiative on the ballot in November that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $13.50 an hour and require most companies to offer paid sick leave.

“Unfortunately Congress has not acted,” Lu said. “A high priority of the Obama administration is to give lift to efforts happening at the state and local level.”

Seattle has experienced unprecedented growth since passing its paid sick and minimum wage laws, said Mayor Ed Murray, who joined Lu as well as labor and business representatives at the LGBT business group’s Capitol Hill office.

“It hasn’t hurt the economy,” Murray said. “There are restaurants opening literally every week.”

A spokesperson with the 1433 campaign said the GSBA was selected to hold the event to show off the measure’s business backing. The initiative garnered enough signatures in July to get on the November ballot.

In 2011, Mayor Mike McGinn signed Seattle’s paid sick measure into law at Capitol Hill’s Plum Bistro. The law requires small businesses to grant one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. If I-1433 passes, state officials should look to improve on Seattle’s experience of enforcement and public awareness.

A 2015 study on Seattle’s paid sick law found only 37% of restaurant workers were aware of the city’s paid sick leave law and 74% reported that they don’t have access to it. Nearly a third said they were concerned they would be fired be if they called in sick.

“Having our employees have access to healthy wage is really important,” said Cupcake Royale owner Jody Hall while at the GSBA event. “Employees are happier, more productive, and less likely to leave their jobs.”

Capitol Hill was also the backdrop when Murray enacted the city’s $15 an hour minimum wage law. That was not the case for Seattle’s secure scheduling law, which Murray signed at City Hall Thursday. Under the law, which goes into effect in 2017, workers at some of Seattle’s largest restaurants and retailers will be paid extra for short notice schedule changes and on-call shifts. Workers will also be required to have at least ten hours between shifts and employers would be required to offer existing employees additional hours before new employees are hired.

“That is a very good thing to do for workers,” Lu said.

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