The Seattle Restaurant Alliance (SRA), a chapter of the WRA, is working hard on behalf of the hospitality industry to promote its interests and develop a smart, reasonable solution to the Seattle minimum wage issue. The SRA was the first industry group to organize – starting in October 2013 – on this issue. It is now helping to lead the other industries so they can help complement its efforts.
In January 2013, the SRA unified with the Washington Lodging Association (WLA) and Seattle Hotel Association (SHA) under a core set of principles and agreed to work together as one hospitality group on all efforts around the Seattle minimum wage discussions. With the help of the lodging industry, the WRA was able to grow its Local Government program by hiring Morgan Hickel as coordinator. The WRA now has two full-time employees working on local issues every day in Seattle.
The WRA has also helped pull the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and other Seattle industries together to form the OneSeattle Coalition. OneSeattle is the voice of concerned Seattle employers and community members committed to broadening the circle of prosperity for all Seattleites by promoting sensible, sustainable solutions to address income inequality in a way that creates the greatest good with the least amount of harm. Members are from every sector of Seattle’s diverse community, including minority and neighborhood chambers, non-profit, human services, manufacturing/industrial, GSBA, grocery, retail and, of course, restaurants and hotels. The sheer number and diversity of the employers and community members that have joined OneSeattle is impressive, unprecedented, showing the enormity of the Seattle minimum wage issue.
The OneSeattle Coalition is united around four principles and believes the best public policy on minimum compensation will conform to these following principles:
- An increase to minimum compensation must be phased in.
- Minimum compensation must take into account all reportable income and include a credit for benefits such as health care.
- A temporary training wage is essential to preserve opportunities for new entrants to the workforce.
- A good policy is good for everyone, no exceptions.
All members of OneSeattle have rallied around and remain aligned on the principles. They are promoting these principles to the mayor, Seattle City Council and the public.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has formed an Income Inequality Advisory Committee (IIAC) that is working hard towards proposing a solution to the Seattle minimum wage issue. The committee has been meeting since January. The committee’s makeup is half local employers, half labor/social justice activists, two non-profits and three councilmembers. Of the business members on the committee, seven are restaurant, hotel and hospitality-related. The SRA fought hard to have these individuals on the Committee to ensure that the hospitality industry’s voice is leading any negotiations that take place.
The SRA also built an ambassador and grassroots program that is dealing effectively at the local level with the city councilmembers. The ambassadors have been organized into groups based on the 2015 city council districts. They are assigned to councilmembers based on the location of their business or where they will vote. They have been tasked with being a resource for their assigned councilmember during the Seattle minimum wage debate and for all future Seattle issues. We also have hundreds of restaurants and hotels in our grassroots membership that are ready to step up and speak out when we have call-to action needs.
Looking ahead, the IIAC will conclude and present recommendations to the mayor by the end of April. The mayor will then take those recommendations and craft an ordinance that the Seattle City Council will consider in May and June. The council is likely to pass something based off of the recommendations made by the IIAC, and the mayor will sign the ordinance into law.
On the other side of these efforts is councilmember Kshama Sawant and the grassroots socialist group $15/now. They continue to threaten a ballot initiative if the mayor and council process do not create a final product that satisfies them. There is little chance of their demands being met, so we fully expect this debate to last until November and be decided as a city-wide ballot proposition.
The WRA Government Affairs team is working very hard to make sure that what passes is a smart, responsible approach to a new Seattle wage policy. We want to help lift those up who are truly in poverty while minimizing unintended consequences that will negatively impact restaurants, hotels and other Seattle businesses.