Seattles $15 wage is in jeopardy again.
  • City of Seattle
  • Seattle's $15 wage is in jeopardy again.
There have been signature gatherers roaming Seattle recently and talking about our minimum wage, so let's be totally clear, Seattle voters: If someone standing outside your Trader Joe's this weekend wants you to sign something regarding the minimum wage, no matter what they tell you, they're probably trying to repeal it.

How do I know? Well, the group 15 Now, which a while back was collecting signatures to amend the city's charter and raise the minimum wage to $15 faster—they're not out getting signatures any more. And the group Forward Seattle, which originally proposed a slower, $12.50 in 2020 charter amendment—they're not running with that either. (When the city attorney read up on the law and realized, according to his interpretation, that citizens can't send charter amendments to the ballot except in odd-numbered years, both of those measures fizzled.)

What rose from the fizzling is an attempted referendum on the $15 minimum wage that the city already passed. Meaning the people out gathering signatures right now, backed by Forward Seattle, are trying to undo the city law by putting it on hold until it goes to the ballot in November. (A referendum basically says, "We don't think you should've passed this law, and we think voters should decide on it directly.") Based on city law and the number of voters in the last mayor's race, Forward Seattle now has until July 3 to collect 16,510 valid signatures—which means more than that in total, in case some of them are repeats or not registered voters.

If you're not being asked to sign a petition to put Seattle's wage on the ballot, you might be facing the other anti-$15 petition out there: A petition for Initiative 1358, a statewide measure that would require the minimum wage to be set at the state level—not only invalidating Seattle's law, but blocking us and any city from future minimum wage increases. They say on their website they're trying to get 250,000 signatures by July 3, so, um, good luck. (Tim Eyman, weasely turd-man that he is, has filed a similar initiative to go to the 2015 ballot, so hey, you could even be signing that.)

We've heard reports on Twitter and from around the city that signature gatherers for campaigns that sound like these aren't always accurately explaining what your signature would actually mean, and are instead giving vague explanations that it's about the $15 minimum wage, something a huge swath of the city supports.

So, to cut through any confusion (deliberate or otherwise), and to recap: One of these—the referendum backed by Forward Seattle—would send $15 to the ballot, where it may pass, given how popular it is. That's not at all a given, though, if business interests local and national raise piles of money to paint it as some dark political evil coming to murder your friendly latte stand and bookstore. The other, whether it's the one aimed at 2014 or 2015, would put progressive Seattle at the mercy of our much more conservative state, essentially hamstringing us forever. Thanks a lot, Tim Eyman, you're always so wonderful.

The labor-backed pro-$15 group Working Washington, which has up until now very carefully never called for anything close to a boycott, as far as I know—save their picketing outside some fast-food restaurants or restaurants with known wage-theft claims—isn't taking this threat lying down. They've set up a new site, Support Seattle's Workers, openly calling for a boycott of businesses owned by backers of both Forward Seattle's anti-$15 referendum and the people behind the anti-$15 franchise lawsuit.

Happy Pride Weekend, everybody! Have fun out there. And remember: Always read petitions carefully. The people gathering signatures are rarely there for democracy, they're there for dollars. A popular minimum wage measure, campaigns to repeal it, people who get paid by the signature—it all adds up to: Figure out what you're signing before you Hancock that shit.