Pro-labor, minimum wage march through Capitol Hill ends with peaceful arrests

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(Images: Alex Garland)

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Several hundred people peacefully marched from downtown through the streets of Capitol Hill and into a Seattle University building Wednesday afternoon as part of a national day of action to support a $15 an hour minimum wage.

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In Seattle, where a $15 minimum wage is already on the books, demonstrators also coalesced around local labor fights.

To protest the Seattle U administration’s opposition to adjunct faculty forming a union, a group of professors and students sat down in the intersection of 12th and Madison for about 30 minutes before police calmly took them into custody one by one. Organizers from the group Working Washington say 21 people were arrested in all.

Ben Stork, a Seattle U adjunct film studies instructor, said contingent and part-time faculty are responsible for the majority of teaching at the university but have little to no job security semester to semester. Stork was one of the 21 arrested on Capitol Hill.

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Beyond a $15 minimum wage march will culminate at Seattle U Wednesday

Activists celebrated the implementation of Seattle's minimum wage law last month. (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

Activists celebrated the implementation of Seattle’s minimum wage law last month on Capitol Hill. (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

Activists that helped push through last year’s $15 an hour minimum wage law in Seattle say they’ve only just begun.

On Wednesday, organizers with the group Working Washington are planning a march —  billed $15 is Just the Beginning – from downtown up to Capitol Hill. A rally at Occidental Park is slated to start at 2 PM, followed by a march that will wind through Capitol Hill to a permitted demonstration at Cal Anderson Park, culminating in a rally and teach-in at Seattle University.

Less clear is the path that the minimum wage fight will take from here. Seattle’s $15 law, which went into effect April 1st, phases in over seven years and sets a schedule for increases to follow into 2025. A bill to implement a statewide $12 an hour minimum wage died in committee earlier this month in Olympia.

Minimum wage demonstrations on Wednesday are being planned in a handful of other cities across the state. Here’s the schedule of events for Seattle:

2:00 pm: Occidental Park (S Main St & Occidental Ave S). Action at nearby corporate location
3:00 pm: Westlake Park (4th Ave & Pine St). Action and nearby corporate location
3:30 pm: Cal Anderson Park (1635 11th Ave). Homecare workers and others will rally at Cal Anderson before joining the main group coming up from Westlake
4:00 pm: Seattle University (12th & Marion, Chapel of St Ignatius Reflecting Pool). Teach-in and more to send clear message: $15 is just the beginning. Inequality ends with us.

In other protest news, a small group of Seattle Central College students took part in the #ShutDownA14 national day of protest over recent high profile police shootings of unarmed minorities. Organized by the by the Seattle affiliate of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, the group marched through the streets from SCC to join a rally in Westlake Park.

Tom Douglas Restaurants adds 2% ‘Wage Equity Surcharge’ — UPDATE: ‘I was trying to level the playing field’

(Image: Serious Pie Pike)

(Image: Serious Pie Pike)

The first phase in Seattle’s new minimum wage law kicked in April 1st amid predictions for higher costs and — at least in the long term — better financial equality in the city. At least a couple of the city’s major restauranteurs are pushing back immediately on the costs front. Wednesday, Tom Douglas Restaurants, operator of $$$ and up style restaurants across the city including the newly opened Serious Pie outlet inside the Starbucks Roastery on Pike, announced it was instituting an automatic “Wage Equity Surcharge” of 2% on every bill:

If you are reading this note, you have likely been to one of our restaurants and have seen the 2% surcharge funding the Mayor’s Wage Equity Surcharge (WES). After months of our team working together to craft the best plan for us to handle the wage increase, we felt the most competitive and least intrusive is to implement a surcharge equal to the increase in wages until all restaurants in Seattle are on the same playing field.

100% of this surcharge will be distributed to our staff in either wages or benefits. If there is a surplus, we will distribute it to current hourly staff at the end of the calendar year as a bonus and adjust the surcharge for the next calendar year.

UPDATE 4:45 PM: The blog post has been removed from the site. The company spokesperson has not yet returned our messages and the company’s social media channels have not addressed the situation. A cached version of the message can be viewed here. We’ve also posted a copy here.

UPDATE 8:45 PM: In a new post, Douglas writes that’s he is dropping the surcharge:

Thanks for reading my blog. You spoke and I’ve listened. Since posting my comments on 3/31 I have had many people tell me that they would prefer a clear picture of the debate and not my political comments that were unnecessarily snarky and snippy. I agree with you and have reframed my blog post to just the facts.

At the same time we are immediately removing the 2% wage equality surcharge we instituted on 4/1 so near future labor increases will be reconciled in the menu price increases as many of you have suggested you would prefer.

UPDATE 4/3/2015 8:50 AM: In a brief phone call from Minneapolis where he is traveling, Tom Douglas tells CHS he wants people to know he has been a long time supporter of the push for $15/hour and that he went about covering the costs of the new law the wrong way.

“I was trying to level the playing field,” Douglas said. “It was stupid of me to get political about the whole thing.”

Douglas said he didn’t intend the surcharge to be a symbolic act. He said he also didn’t mean to rile customers.

“What I should have done, obviously, is poll the customers,” Douglas said.

He said he doesn’t expect the climb to $15 will destroy Seattle’s restaurant industry.

“I’m all for $15, I’ve been saying all along. Those people need it. My employees already make $11 an hour. I’m really proud of that. I just didn’t frame my thoughts very well.”

The announcement, written in first person from the perspective of owner and member of the mayor’s “VIP panel of business and labor leaders” Douglas, also includes a lengthy background on the restauranteur’s view of how the fight for $15/hour played out in Seattle:

I know all of you eat at a variety of Seattle’s restaurants not just ours. With their plan, the Mayor and City Council have decided that restaurants of our size should pay approximately 10% more per hour for servers, bartenders, host and bussers than any of my contemporaries. Just on raw talent it’s hard enough to compete with amazing Seattle restaurateurs like Ethan Stowell, Matt Dillon, Renee Erickson and Thierry Rautureau. Now I get to pay millions more in labor cost on top of it.

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Seattle’s minimum wage law goes into effect — but first, a Capitol Hill victory lap

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Council member Sawant stops inside a Capitol Hill Starbucks — but not for coffee (Image: CHS)

IMG_7434“Hip, hip, hooray! Seattle’s getting a raise!”

Around 100 people chanted the refrain while marching through Capitol Hill Saturday afternoon to celebrate the city’s new minimum wage law going into effect Wednesday.

City Council member Kshama Sawant joined labor leaders and activists to pass out informational flyers and balloons to workers inside the neighborhood’s chain businesses.

The march was a victory lap of sorts for $15 Now activists and a handful of workers who staged numerous rallies and marches around the neighborhood over the past year. Capitol Hill served as the backdrop to some of the most important events on the march to $15, from an early walkout at the Madison McDonald’s to Mayor Ed Murray enacting the minimum wage law. In between, there were symposiums, forums, studies, and countless speeches.

It will all come to a head Wednesday, when the minimum wage at Seattle employers with more than 500 employees will rise to $11 — an 18% jump. Employees at smaller companies with no tips and no medical benefits will also have a $11/hour floor. Small employers of tipped workers and employers that provide medical benefits may pay a $10 minimum and make up the balance with credit for the tips. Continue reading

Step $11* — Minimum wage rally planned Saturday on Capitol Hill

10448616_999792076715411_2076883839272315428_oIn 2014, Mayor Ed Murray came to Capitol Hill to sign Seattle’s historic minimum wage law. On April 1st, the first stage of the march to a $15/hour minimum for all Seattle workers (well, except these folks, maybe) will begin. City Council member and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant, the biggest champion of the new wage, will return to the Hill for a rally to celebrate and defend the new law:

Seattle’s Getting a Raise – Now, Let’s Enforce It!
Saturday, March 28th at 1 PM
In Front of Seattle Central College – Broadway & E. Pine
$15 was won due to the efforts low wage workers, unions, and grassroots organizations. The next step is to make sure our bosses follow the law.

On March 28th we’ll be visiting low-wage workplaces to let workers know their rights. Join us and take action for workers’ rights under the new minimum wage law.

Starting next Wednesday, the minimum wage at Seattle employers with more than 500 employees will rise to $11 — an 18% jump. Employees at smaller companies with no tips and no medical benefits will also have a $11/hour floor. Small employers of tipped workers and employers that provide medical benefits may pay a $10 minimum and make up the balance with credit for the tips and bennies. No foolin’.


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Following red tape, minimum wage battles, Good Citizen opens on E Olive Way

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(Image: Good Citizen via Twitter)

After two years of battling red tape — and the city’s move to a $15 minimum wage — Andrew Friedman quietly opened his Good Citizen bar Friday night.

“It’s designed to look like someone’s house… really comfortable and nice,” Friedman told CHS about the transformation of the former E Olive Way coffee shop a year ago as he made plans for a March 2014 debut for the bar. Friedman took over the space in 2013. Word back then was the bar was lined up for a summer 2013 debut. Continue reading

$15 Now: Central Co-op an early adopter for Seattle’s new minimum wage

UPDATE: It's a done deal. Here's a picture Central Co-op posted this afternoon -- "Today is a proud day for Central Co-op! This morning, we signed a new contract with UFCW 21 that includes a $15 entry-level wage. As far as we know, this is the HIGHEST starting grocery wage in the nation! [L-R: UFCW employee Michael McGovern, General Manager Dan Arnett, Human Resources Director Tyler Burch]" (Image: Central Co-op via Facebook)

UPDATE: It’s a done deal. Here’s a picture Central Co-op posted this afternoon — “Today is a proud day for Central Co-op! This morning, we signed a new contract with UFCW 21 that includes a $15 entry-level wage. As far as we know, this is the HIGHEST starting grocery wage in the nation!
[L-R: UFCW employee Michael McGovern, General Manager Dan Arnett, Human Resources Director Tyler Burch]” (Image: Central Co-op via Facebook)

Celebrations in 2013 as the co-op signed a new five-year lease (Image: CHS)

Celebrations in 2013 as the co-op signed a new five-year lease (Image: CHS)

The Stranger’s Ansel Herz has a nice scoop on the latest contract offer to Central Co-op’s nearly 100 unionized employees — the E Madison market plans to offer entry-level wages of $15 seven years ahead of the deadline set by Seattle’s new minimum law:

The co-op is getting ahead of the game by seven years, entering into a contract with its unionized employees to offer them entry-level wages of $15—starting now.

“We believe working families need that income now,” said Dan Arnett, general manager of the cooperative. “We can afford it and find ways to make it work for us. We think our people are worth it.”

“We want to inspire change—systematic change,” he added. “Particularly in a city that’s expensive, we can’t fall back on poverty wages.”

Herz says the co-op’s board is expected to approve the contract today.

Spearheaded by Council Member Kshama Sawant and eventually embraced by Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle’s new wage rules will boost the minimum to $15 per hour for every worker in the city by 2021. Murray’s May Day compromise plan created tiers of phase-in schedules intended to help protect Seattle businesses with fewer than 500 employees and nonprofits from unintended consequences of a higher minimum wage.

The 13,000-member Central Co-op, a CHS advertiser, joins other businesses in the city already meeting the minimum requirements but appears poised to be the largest employer yet to make the move. Meanwhile, the new Whole Foods lined up to join Madison less than a mile from the co-op in three years currently pays its workers “a minimum starting salary” of $10 nationwide.

 

After $15 minimum wage fight, Broadway cheesecake shop The Confectional pares back

Seattle sweet shop The Confectional has closed retail operations at its Broadway store citing a “restructuring.”

A sign in the window at 618 Broadway E spelled it out:

Thanks to Jackson for the picture

Thanks to Jackson for the picture

The move comes after the mini-cheesecake mini-chain caused a stir in the minimum wage debate earlier this year when its ownership said an immediate $15 an hour wage increase would force the Broadway dessert shop to close and the company would need to lay off of half of its staff.

In March, as CHS readers brainstormed ways to help The Confectional stay in business on Broadway, owner Destiny Sund said the company employed 11 people at its three locations with six employees working at the Broadway shop and kitchen. Sund said her Broadway location had been “struggling” and foot traffic had been less than expected when The Confectional brought its mini-cheesecake concept to Capitol Hill in 2011.

In June, Mayor Ed Murray came to Capitol Hill to sign Seattle’s new minimum wage into law. The long march to $15 per hour begins in 2015.

While the closure leaves the business still operating its kitchen in the neighborhood, the loss of the retail component on high-rent Broadway seems a significant blow to The Confectional’s Capitol Hill presence. We’ll see if we can learn more about the company’s long-term plans for the space.

UPDATE: Co-owner Sund declined to comment on the situation citing ongoing lease negotiations.

Challenger Spear brings Socialist Alternative (and ground game) fight to 43rd District establishment

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

Jess Spear readily admits her bid to unseat a powerful, 10-term Olympia politician with strong name recognition will not be a day at the beach. House Speaker Frank Chopp is about as entrenched as you can get in his Capitol Hill-centered 43rd District. But Spear, a 32-year-old climate scientist and Socialist Alternative candidate, says the political landscape is shifting in her favor. After taking leading roles in the successful $15 Now and Kshama Sawant campaigns, Spear is hoping to ride the momentum into Olympia.

“The political situation has changed,” she told CHS. “When we organize, we win, and we’re carrying that lesson forward.”

As ballots dropped last week for the August 5th primary, Spear will be staking out Capitol Hill street corners to get out her message of a statewide $15 an hour minimum wage and repealing the nearly $9 billion Boeing tax break state lawmakers approved last year. To those that say it can’t be done, Spear is quick to point out that many leveled the same charge against Sawant and $15 Now. Continue reading

Effort to roll back Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law falls 1,692 signatures short

A First Hill McDonald’s worker who walked out for a one-day strike against fast food chains earlier this spring (Image: CHS)

A First Hill McDonald’s worker who walked out for a one-day strike against fast food chains earlier this spring (Image: CHS)

Like Goldy’s been saying

Of course, this result had been a foregone conclusion for more than a week. Of more interest is that KCE subtracted 100 signatures from the final total as legally “withdrawn.” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this before. Kudos to Working Washington for setting new precedent in the battle against blatantly dishonest signature drives.

Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage plan will not be challenged on the ballot this November:

Today King County Elections issued a letter of insufficiency to the City of Seattle for both Referendum Measure Nos. 2 and 3. There were not enough valid signatures for a measure to be placed on the ballot. Both measures related to putting Seattle’s new $15 minimum wage law to a vote.

Final numbers:

Referendum No. 2 (Save Our Choice)

Number of signatures required 16,510
Number of signatures submitted and checked 568
Number of valid signatures 455

 

Referendum No. 3 (Forward Seattle)

Number of signatures required 16,510
Number of signatures submitted and checked 18,929
Number of valid signatures 14,818 

CHS reported here on Capitol Hill food and drink business owners who supported Forward Seattle.