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National Restaurant Association - City's $15 minimum wage has day in court

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City's $15 minimum wage has day in court

Last month’s vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 for airport and hospitality workers in the town of SeaTac, Wash., did little to settle the issue. The fight has now moved to the court room, where the Washington Restaurant Association and others that oppose the measure are facing labor unions and the city of SeaTac in an argument over whether the ballot measure known as “Proposition 1” should be allowed to take effect.

On Friday, lawyers representing the WRA, Alaska Airlines and Filo Foods argued that Proposition 1—which passed by only 77 votes out of more than 6,000 cast and would give SeaTac the nation’s highest minimum wage—was illegal for a number of reasons, including

  • it violated a state requirement that a law only contain one subject. In addition to the wage increase, Proposition 1 called for annual adjustments to wages for inflation, mandatory paid sick leave, and a requirement that current part-time workers be hired to replace vacant full-time jobs.
  • the title of the ballot question failed to inform voters of the proposition’s content.
  • the city of SeaTac does not have jurisdiction over the Port of Seattle, which oversees Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where many of the workers impacted by Proposition 1 are based.

The judge in the case, Andrea Darvas, said she would issue a ruling before January 1. She acknowledged that the case likely would end up before the Washington Supreme Court. Darvas did not rule on a request by the WRA and other plaintiffs to delay the wage increase and other changes until the court case is resolved. The measure is scheduled to take effect  January 1.

Though SeaTac has a population of only about 30,000 and Proposition 1 would impact about 6,000 workers, the debate over the ballot referendum attracted national attention. The labor union SEIU, which has called for a $15 minimum wage at quickservice restaurants across the country, is a strong backer of the initiative. The WRA played a lead role in CommonSense SeaTac, a business coalition that opposed the measure.

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