Now that the campaign to overturn the head tax is in full swing, you may be wondering what happened the last time Seattleites tried to nix a new law through the referendum process.
The year was 2014. The City Council had just passed an ordinance bumping Seattle’s minimum wage to $15. Some business owners were pissed, and they started a group called Forward Seattle to collect signatures for a ballot referendum.
The 2014 campaign was marred by allegations that signature gatherers weren’t being honest about what the petition sought to do. Working Washington, a labor group, posted a recording on YouTube that purported to show a petitioner falsely telling someone the campaign would raise the minimum wage to $15. That would have been a lie since council members had already passed the minimum wage ordinance and Forward Seattle’s referendum sought to overturn it.
Nearly 300 people sent requests to have their signatures removed, which is allowed under the city’s referendum process, the Seattle Times reported at the time.
In the end, Forward Seattle failed. The group submitted nearly 20,000 signatures, but King County Elections Department determined that only 14,818 of those signatures were valid. They needed 16,510 to place the minimum wage on a ballot.
So, is the anti-head tax campaign, dubbed No Tax on Jobs, doomed to the same fate? Only time will tell.
If money is any indication, the anti-head tax campaign is way ahead. Forward Seattle raised about $75,850 throughout its campaign, which is less than a third of what the head tax opponents have already raised, according to a report from Crosscut. More money means more signature-gatherers to badger you outside grocery stores, more cryptic Facebook campaigns and more ads warning of a Great Jobs Exodus.
In 2014, Forward Seattle also faced a group of labor unions that raised more money than they did to counter their message. It’s unclear whether advocates will mount a similar effort against No Tax on Jobs.
Another question is whether head tax supporters will raise concerns about signature gatherers, like they did during the 2014 minimum wage battle. The answer seems to be yes. Sage Wilson of Working Washington said the group is already keeping an eye on how signature gatherers are presenting the anti-head tax petition.
To qualify for a ballot referendum, No Tax on Jobs needs 17,632 signatures by June 15.