SeaTac ‘Good Jobs initiative' would establish worker standards

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by ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on June 5, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 5 at 6:40 PM

Thousands of SeaTac transportation and hospitality workers hope a proposed initiative will help them improve their standard of living.  Nearly 2,600 signatures were collected throughout the community for the “Good Jobs Initiative” and presented at City Hall Wednesday afternoon.

It establishes a living wage of at least $15 an hour, provides sick pay and job security for more than 6,000 low wage workers who claim they’re paid poverty wages.

“If I got paid a decent wage, I might be able to stand with just one job,” said Chris Smith, who refuels airplanes at SeaTac Airport

Smith, 50, has three kids and works for minimum wage. It’s not enough to make ends meet so he picked up a second job.

“Twenty out of 24 hours of my day is going from one job to the other, wearing myself out,” he said.

The initiative would ensure of salary of at least $30,000 a year for full time work, provide at least 1 hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, and require employers to give 100% of service charges and tips to workers that provide service to customers.

“It’s a lot for me, I’m 21. I have a baby on the way so it’s going to help,” said Emanuel Abebe, a airport employee.

But some businesses argue at what cost.

“I think they’re very concerned,” said Carol Kolson, President/CEO of Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce.

Business leaders say it’ll be tough for airport restaurants to pay the higher wage because the Port of Seattle requires them to keep prices the same as other locations.

“It could potentially shut down some businesses in the area and it could also stop future businesses from coming into our area,” said Kolson.

Organizers of the effort say other businesses support the initiative because it will bring in an extra $40 million in revenue a year.

Smith says the boost in pay will be huge, especially since his raises are only 13 cents an hour.

“That’s not even a candy bar anymore; penny candy is a quarter,” he said.

If the initiative is approved, he’ll be able to spend more time with his family.

“That’s what’s going to make our lives better, is being able to have a life,” he said.

Once the signatures are verified, City of SeaTac leaders will address the issue next month. They can either approve the ordinance or put it to a public vote in November.

Retail stores with fewer than 10 workers, hotels with fewer than 30 workers and other businesses with fewer than 25 workers and free-standing restaurants or retail stores that are not part of hotels would be exempt.

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