Locals who want to place a head tax referendum on an upcoming ballot have the support of some of Seattle's heaviest hitters, according to a campaign disclosure filed Tuesday.
Businesses have pledged more than $350,000 to support No Tax on Jobs, the political committee that needs nearly 18,000 signatures by mid-June to put the head tax up to voters. The list of donors who have promised money to that effort include big corporations and small businesses, with a large chunk of cash coming from grocery chains.
The Washington Food Industry Association, a trade group representing grocery stores and their suppliers, offered the biggest pledge at $30,000. Albertsons and Kroger both pledged $25,000. Grocery stores have argued that they would be disproportionately impacted by the $275 per employee tax, saying they have higher head counts and lower margins. The international grocery store Uwajimaya, which was prominently featured in a Seattle Times article about businesses against the tax, pledged $5,000.
Amazon and Starbucks, two of the biggest and most vocal opponents of the tax, both pledged $25,000 to No Tax on Jobs. As the Times reported, Amazon's threat to get rid of 7,000 jobs over the head tax led lawmakers to cut the proposed rate nearly in half. Starbucks senior vice president John Kelly offered a blistering statement shortly after the council passed the tax, accusing the city of "ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside." Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc also pledged $25,000.
Much of the money also comes from construction and real estate, including $25,000 from the construction mogul Howard Wright, $20,000 from Holland Partner Group, $10,000 from Wright, Runstand and Company, and $7,500 from Clise Properties.
No Tax on Jobs is lead by Saul Spady, the grandson of Dick’s Drive-In founder Dick Spady, and James Maiocco, Chief Business Development Officer at Redmond-based tech company PushPay. They are working with the consulting firm Ceis Bayne East. Maiocco and Dick's both pledged $5,000.
Curiously absent from the list: The political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Crosscut reported that the Chamber, along with the Downtown Seattle Association, were represented at a meeting in which the head tax opponents secured the pledges. The Chamber recently claimed ownership of an online campaign critical of the city council, and in particular, council member Mike O'Brien.
The filing from No Tax on Jobs also shows a $5,000 debt to Pacifica Law Group.
The tax passed unanimously by the Seattle City Council last month collects $275 per employee from businesses grossing more than $20 million annually. The new revenue is slated to go towards housing and homelessness services.
See the full list of businesses that have pledged to No Tax on Jobs here.