Signature gatherers are now roaming this city and talking about our new $15 minimum wage, so let's be totally clear, Seattle voters: If someone standing outside your Trader Joe's wants you to sign something regarding the minimum wage, no matter what they tell you, they're probably trying to repeal it.
How do we know? Because all the other signature-gathering efforts related to $15 are done. The group 15 Now, which a while back was collecting signatures to raise the minimum wage to $15 faster, isn't doing that anymore. And the group Forward Seattle, which originally pushed a slower, $12.50 in 2020 measure, isn't running with that, either. (Both of those efforts sought city charter amendments, but then our city attorney read up on the law and decided that citizens can't actually send charter amendments to the ballot except in odd-numbered years—yes, really. As a result, both efforts fizzled.)
What rose from the fizzling is an attempted referendum on the $15 minimum wage that the city council unanimously passed last month, and that Mayor Ed Murray has since signed into law. This means people out right now gathering signatures, backed by Forward Seattle, are trying to undo the city's wage law by putting it on hold and placing it on 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.
That's not very long, and by the time you're reading this, their time could be up. Nevertheless, Forward Seattle is pushing hard—too hard, according to Working Washington, a labor-backed group that says it has recorded Forward Seattle signature gathers giving false information to voters. In one recording, posted to YouTube by Working Washington, an alleged signature gatherer can be heard telling an interested citizen that signing will help raise the minimum wage in Seattle, that the city council hasn't yet voted on $15, and that a $15 minimum wage hasn't been legalized yet—false, false, and false.
Another thing to watch for in this wild world of direct democracy: Two other efforts are under way to place measures on the statewide ballot that could invalidate Seattle's new wage law. One is aimed at this year and seems unlikely to gather enough signatures by the July 3 deadline. The other, backed by Tim Eyman, is aimed at 2015.