Tomorrow at 9 a.m., the Seattle City Council will convene for an epic meeting on the mayor's proposed minimum-wage legislation. (Two and a half hours! Yes, I will be live-tweeting this shit!) The meeting's schedule allows for a possible vote on the legislation and its various amendments, though they could postpone the vote to another meeting, depending on the discussion. If they do pass legislation tomorrow, they'll still have to vote on it again at a full council meeting, since this is just the minimum-wage committee vote. (It's complicated, I know.) The next full council meeting is Monday afternoon. Shit is moving right along, people!
In a preview of what's to come, a list of the proposed amendments went up this afternoon, showing us exactly what alterations to the mayor's plan the various council members want. The short version: Kshama Swant is pushing to amend it into 15 Now's proposal, Sally Clark is alone with all the business-friendly amendments, and Nick Licata and Mike O'Brien focus on enforcement.
Now, if you'd like to go deeper, let's take a look at all these amendment ideas, broken out by each amendment's council sponsor(s):
Sawant is proposing a handful of amendments, the first two of which mimic language in 15 Now's ballot measure:
• One changes the schedule of this wage's phase-in so that big businesses hit $15 immediately in January and small businesses have three years. A second adds a private right of action for employees to sue over wage theft, with a remedy of three times the unpaid wages plus attorney's fees.
• Another amendment would eliminate the counting of tips toward compensation—under the mayor's plan, small businesses are allowed to count tips and health benefits toward what's called a "minimum compensation" during a transition period, while the cash minimum wage is slowly rising to $15. This amendment would leave only the credit for qualifying health benefits during that period.
• One last amendment would simply add language stating the city's intent to identify additional funding for nonprofits, which are concerned that higher wages will require more funding, some of which they already get from the city.
Clark is the minimum-wage committee chair. Her amendments tend to fall more on the water-it-down side of things:
• One would push the start date of this legislation back from January 1, 2015, to April 1, 2015.
• One would give a city director the authority to set rules for lower youth wages, mimicking state law on the matter.
• Another would put some larger nonprofits that might fall into the "large business" category based on their number of employees into the "small business" category instead, giving them a much longer phase-in.
• And one would change the tail end of the phase-in from being based on a mathematical formula to being a set schedule.
• One last clarifies language in the enforcement section so it's clear that it's a civil penalty, not a criminal one.
But wait! There's more!
A team effort, an amendment from these two would remove a city director's ability to issue special certificates to employers that allow them to pay certain employees a subminimum wage. Currently, the mayor's plan mimics state law in allowing these certificates, which allow employers to pay employees who are physically or cognitively disabled, or who are in certain educational programs, a lower-than-minimum wage. This is part of the fight over "training wages," which I wrote about in the paper this week.
Licata and Sawant, the leftiest of the left wing, offer a handful of amendments intended to strengthen the enforcement section of the mayor's bill:
• One amendment extends the statute of limitations on wage theft, saying charges may be filed within three years (the mayor's bill says 180 days).
• Another ups the penalties imposed for wage theft violations, setting the possible fine for a first infraction at $1,000 per employee and up to $20,000 per employee for subsequent infractions.
• A third clarifies some language in the enforcement section.
O'Brien's got two amendments strengthening enforcement and education:
• One would add language to the requirement to post the basics of the minimum-wage law in workplaces; it requires that the posting include mention that retaliation against complaining employees is prohibited and that employees have a right to sue and to keep their own records of their hours and wages.
• A second would say wage theft charges need not be in writing (they can be oral or electronic), that an investigator can interview workers at the site and review their records, and that complaining employees' names should be kept confidential as long as possible.
Eternally staying on message as she works on the issue of the gender wage gap, Godden's proposing an amendment that simply adds language to the bill's recital—that's the section at the beginning full of "whereas..." clauses—recognizing that a majority of low-wage workers are women.
Whew! That's a lot of amendments, y'all. And that's not even getting into an accompanying resolution that clarifies the city's intent around outreach, education, enforcement, and measurement of the effects of the future city minimum wage law.
But while some of it will certainly piss off people arguing for the strongest and fastest law possible (pushing the start date back, adding the potential for lower youth wages) these amendments don't appear to be a grand departure from the advisory committee's hard-fought compromise agreement. Sure, the training wage portions are upsetting labor and delighting business, but unless I'm missing something, this could've been a lot worse.
If you want to dig in (NEEERRRRD), all the amendments are posted in full below the description section here. As mentioned—because if you made it this far, you might have forgotten by now, or aged a few years, or fallen asleep—I'll be live-tweeting the council meeting bright and early tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.