Seattle school bus drivers reach benefits deal to end strike

(Image: CHS)

The full fleet of yellow buses carrying Seattle Public Schools kids is back on the roads Monday morning after drivers approved a new contract over the weekend.

“We are very pleased that First Student yellow bus drivers have voted to ratify the expanded benefits program included within their contract,” lead negotiator Kim Mingo for First Student, the company that contracts with SPS to deliver the system’s students across the city, said in a statement. Continue reading

Why Capitol Hill’s newest restaurant — and plenty of others — are adding service charges

Chef and owner Brian Clevenger is celebrating the opening of Contadino and its sibling pizzeria on 19th Ave E. While he would prefer to talk about fresh pasta and pizza, he, like a growing number of Capitol Hill food and drink owners, is answering questions about an italicized note at the bottom of his menus notifying diners of a “5% service charge” that is “distributed in full to the employees you do not see” —

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While pro-labor advocates call the new crop of service charges added by owners like Clevenger protests of “the fact that they have to pay their workers a living wage,” the Contadino restaurateur says he is trying to find a new path to solve an issue close to his heart. And he might soon find some help from the last guy you might expect to lend a hand to a restaurant atop Capitol Hill, Seattle. Continue reading

Motör wants to be Seattle’s super local, safe take on ride-hailing apps

Motör drivers are just like you and me (Image: Motör)

Motör drivers are just like you and me (Image: Motör)

Need a ride to get around Capitol Hill tonight? The creator of Motör has lived in Seattle his entire life and wanted to create a rideshare that allows his community to get to where they’re going efficiently, safely, and affordably.

Sotirios Rebelos comes from a long line of cab drivers. Both of his parents met while driving cabs in downtown Seattle at the Elephant Car Wash. When he read on a community Facebook thread that service industry workers didn’t feel safe walking home at night after their shifts, he decided to do something about it.

“We are drivers, not an app,” Rebelos said.  “The app is secondary. We’re not trying to upscale and dominate globally, we are just trying to give rides to the neighborhood and we need an app to do it.” Continue reading

Rally at Seattle Central part of community college union walkout

Seattle Central faculty held a walkout Thursday in a call for fair wages and solidarity during ongoing contract negotiations — and, as she has been for labor issues across the city over the past five or so years, District 3 representative Kshama Sawant was on Broadway to cheer the crowd on.

The teachers union AFT Seattle Community Colleges Local 1789 voted to hold what was called a voluntary walkout across the Seattle Colleges campuses — SCC, North Seattle College, South Seattle College and the Seattle Vocational Institute. Continue reading

Seattle U likely heading to court after refusing to bargain with faculty union

Students and faculty rallied on campus in support of a union in 2015. (Image: CHS)

Students and faculty rallied on campus in support of a union in 2015. (Image: CHS)

Seattle University may be heading to court after administrators formally refused to enter contract negotiations with a labor union newly representing adjunct faculty at the Capitol Hill college.

After organizing for nearly three years, SU’s non-tenured faculty voted in September to join Service Employees International Union 925. The university administration has opposed the union from the start, saying federally regulated contract bargaining would violate the college’s First Amendment protections of religious freedom. Administrators are specifically concerned about being required to hire faculty members that do not subscribe to its Jesuit style of teaching. Continue reading

Should restaurants have to pay workers extra for schedule changes and on-call shifts?

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Kshama Sawant visited a Starbucks last year to explain her first major workers rights victory — the $15 minimum wage . (image: CHS)

One restaurant worker on Capitol Hill said fluctuating work hours each month were a “constant stress” as making rent perpetually hangs in the balance. A Hillman City fast-food manager said scheduling is an enormous task and when employees cannot pick up shifts, it is usually management that forgoes personal and family time to fill the gap.

The anecdotes, included in an extensive 119-page report on hardships faced by Seattle workers due to shifting work schedules, offers a glimpse into the contentious waters city officials are wading into as they consider a new secure scheduling ordinance.

A city-contracted researcher found that a third of workers surveyed faced serious hardships because of their work schedule, with African American and Latino workers reporting “significantly higher” than average rates of hardship. Nearly half of the workers surveyed said they would forego a 20% pay increase to secure substantive advanced notice for work.

“The data reveals that a significant number of Seattle employees’ schedules produce hardship including difficulty planning a budget, a second job, and childcare needs,” said Council member Lisa Herbold in a statement. Continue reading

Seattle looks at fee on businesses to fund minimum wage and labor law enforcement

The office responsible for enforcing Seattle’s expanding labor laws needs $6 million in 2017 to cover its operations. On Wednesday, Seattle City Council members will be considering a new fee on businesses to fund it.

Under a proposal by City Council member Lisa Herbold, the city would levy a new annual fee on businesses specifically for funding the Office of Labor Standards — currently paid for through the city’s general fund. City Council’s District 3 rep Kshama Sawant and others have repeatedly called for OLS to receive more funding to better enforce and educate the public on Seattle’s minimum wage law. Continue reading

‘Clopening’ time: Seattle on the clock for secure scheduling

June on Capitol Hill, Starbucks on Olive

The subject has been bubbling up in Seattle public discourse for around six months now. Last fall, local progressive labor advocacy organization Working Washington and Starbucks baristas protested their inconsistent and unpredictable work schedules, which labor advocates say act as barriers for low-income workers to scheduling life necessities like college classes or childcare or budgeting living expenses. A few months later, in his 2016 state of the city speech, Mayor Ed Murray highlighted secure scheduling as a key low-wage worker equity issue and said his office would work with the City Council to address it.

“We know that having a secure schedule of hours helps workers plan their budget, plan for childcare, enroll in school or take a second job – and we know schedule predictability will most help low-wage hourly workers,” Murray said in his speech.

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Here are a couple chances to get involved or learn more: Thursday night, “join a live tele-town hall over the phone and over the internet about the fight for secure scheduling in Seattle. When: 6:00 pm, Thursday, May 26, 2016. Where: You can listen in live over the phone by calling 855-756-7520 Ext. 32020#, or join live online athttp://workingwa.org/ourtimecounts/townhall.” On Friday, the committee will hear from Lonnie Goldan, a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute who has studied the issue, on her findings and national data. Tune in to Seattle Channel at 9:30AM to watch. On June 16th,Working Washington is holding a “Secure Scheduling Story Slam.”

With a $15 minimum wage already under Seattle’s belt, City Hall along with labor and business interests have turned their attention to the next big issue affecting the city’s proletariat and their bosses: secure scheduling.

“The response has moved pretty quickly from when workers first spoke out about it, and that’s heartening. There’s been a tremendous amount of support expressed by both the council and the mayor’s office on the need to move forward and do something to address secure scheduling,” said Sage Wilson, a spokesperson for Working Washington. “This is a really urgent issue for workers week to week.” Continue reading

Union members throw support behind Central Co-op’s Capitol Hill Station bid

DSC02980Somebody hand you a banana at Capitol Hill Station? They’re part of the #coopthestation campaign to help the E Madison-headquartered Central Co-op win its bid to be the anchor grocery store at the 85-foot development slated to rise around the Broadway light rail station where empty pavement sits today.

Now, a group of members from UCFW 21 — “the largest private sector union in Washington State” and representative for Central Co-op’s nearly 100 unionized employees — have sent an “open letter” to Gerding Edlen partner Jill Sherman calling on the developer to “do better by local workers and choose a union grocer where workers have a voice on the job, and earn a living wage.”

The full letter is below. Central Co-op, by the way, is a CHS advertiser.

Labor groups and District 3 rep Kshama Sawant have already come out swinging against Portland-based developer Gerding Edlen’s consideration of Portland-based grocery chain New Seasons for the light rail project. Continue reading

Report: Wage theft, paid sick law violations common among Seattle restaurant workers

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Guild Seattle’s Joey Burgess spoke about how the bar’s ownership group was bucking bad trends during the report release event. (Image: CHS)

As the rise of Capitol Hill’s food and drink economy continues, a new report claims many of Seattle’s workers are not coming along for the ride. A survey of 524 restaurant employees by the labor group Restaurant Opportunities Center found many workers were poorly informed of their rights, faced unpredictable schedules, and are not properly compensated for working overtime.

Among the most concerning findings: 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. Moreover, a fifth of those surveyed reported working off the clock without getting paid.

According to the labor group’s study, Seattle’s restaurant industry employs 86,000 workers at 5,400 establishments.

The non-profit Restaurant Opportunities Center’s mission “is to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low wage restaurant workforce.” The group grew out of New York City and has since expanded to 32 U.S. cities. The Seattle report is part of a wave of survey results being released about inequity in the nation’s restaurant industry.

ROC-Seattle will be discussing its findings Thursday afternoon at the Comet along with Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant.

UPDATE (3:30 PM): Speaking at the Comet on Thursday afternoon, ROC United co-founder Saru Jayaraman highlighted one finding in the report she found particularly troubling: Among Seattle’s “front of the house” workers, white men earned $5 more per hour on average over women of color. Thats a $1 more than national average, Jayaraman said. According to the report, white men earned a median wage (plus tips) of $18.83/hr compared to $13.55/hr for women.

“The tip schedule definitely hurt women of color the hardest,” Jayaraman said, referring to Seattle’s minimum wage law which gives smaller companies more time to get tipped employees to $15 an hour.

The study release event was the culmination of two years of interviews and analysis conducted by ROC-Seattle. It’s the 15th study the organization has completed on restaurant industries in cities and states across the country.

In an effort to crack down on wage theft, Sawant said she was pushing for a bill that would require employers found guilty of wage theft to compensate workers triple the amount they’re owed. “The report ROC has come up with really shows the urgency of the need to get bills like that passed by the City Council,” Sawant said. Continue reading