I hope you're as excited as those socialists in party hats, because Seattle's new minimum wage law takes effect today! That means all workers in the city will start making at least $10 or $11 an hour, depending on the size of their employer and whether they get tips or health insurance. By 2021, everyone will be making at least $15 an hour.
Seattle was the first major city to pass a minimum wage that will end up at $15, which is a big deal. City council member Kshama Sawant and her supporters already took a victory lap last weekend. This morning, at 11 a.m., Mayor Ed Murray will hold a press conference at Island Soul on Rainier Avenue South where he'll celebrate the wage hike with US labor secretary Thomas Perez and Council Members Sawant, Nick Licata, and Bruce Harrell. Murray is also expected to join fast-food strikers at a morning event organized by the labor-backed group Working Washington. It's basically going to be one big daylong party.
But questions still linger about the implementation of the new law. It's unclear whether the city is ready to enforce it, and Seattle's largest employer, the University of Washington, is only partially complying with the new law by raising non-student employees to $11 per hour but not giving the same raise to student employees. UW students and employees will hold a protest on campus about that starting at 11 a.m. today.
Plus, for the first year of this new law, the city won't be checking on businesses to make sure they're complying. Instead, they'll rely on employee complaints to catch businesses who aren't playing by the rules. As we learned the hard way from the implementation of the city's sick and safe time ordinance (which was barely enforced), it's going to be critical for workers to know their rights and know what to do if their employer isn't complying with the new law, and for the city to respond appropriately.
To that end, Working Washington, which helped organize fast-food workers demanding higher wages, has created a website to help workers figure out what their new wage should be and how to report if they're not being paid fairly. The site—whatsmywage.org—can use your employer's address (or the location of your computer or smartphone if you're at work) to figure out whether you're within the city limits. Then, you can enter the name of the business to find out whether it's considered a large or small employer, which will determine your new wage. (Having 501 employees or more is considered a large employer, which means employees must make at least $11 an hour.)
The catch here is that the site is really good at telling you that Subway or KFC is a big chain, but less helpful (so far) when it comes to local companies. For that, it's counting on crowdsourcing. On this page, you can add your place of employment and select whether it has more or less than 500 employees. As Working Washington puts it: "The more people who use the app, the better it gets."
Once you've figured out the wage you should be getting, the site has a lovely red button that says, "Not getting paid this much?" If you aren't getting your rightful wage, use that button to let Working Washington know. You can also call the city's Office of Labor Standards at 684-4500, Working Washington at 866-385-9509, or Casa Latina at 745-2045.
In the meantime, the city's new Office of Labor Standards continues to look for a director to oversee enforcement of this new law everyone is so proud of. And it's a job no one seems to want. The city’s human resources department and the Office for Civil Rights (which oversees the new Office of Labor Standards) had to extend the deadline for applications for that job because it received too few applicants. (Just how few? Neither the head of HR nor the director of the Office for Civil Rights would tell me.) Now, they've appointed an interim director and the permanent job is open for applications with no end-date decided. Great!