Issue #332

Will wage theft derail Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law?

Protesters at Queen City Grill.
Protesters at Queen City Grill.

Seattle may soon find that passing a $15 minimum wage was the easy part. The real challenge will be making sure workers actually get what they deserve under the law. In the past eight years, both the Washington legislature and the Seattle City Council have passed laws to address what’s coming to be understood as a huge problem: wage theft, the withholding of wages or denial of benefits rightfully owed an employee. It’s a misdemeanor under city and state law. Widespread violations of minimum-wage laws, overtime provisions, and other examples of wage theft have been well documented in recent decades. And yet in hundreds of cases annually, Washington fails to retrieve workers’ shorted wages, a review of state records by InvestigateWest shows. Meanwhile, the city ordinance has yet to bring about even a single prosecution of employers who withhold pay. Seattle Weekly, 8-26-14.

Or might Eyman?

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman is asking the restaurant and lodging industries to pony up $1.1 million for a signature blitzkrieg that would put on the ballot an initiative to repeal Seattle’s new $15-an-hour minimum wage. While he alienated business with a 2013 initiative — and saw it crushed in the November election— Eyman has embarked on a courtship that reportedly included a meeting with hospitality industry bigwigs at Seattle’s high-end Metropolitan Grill. The for-profit promoter is pushing an initiative that would require the minimum wage to be uniform and consistent statewide for all employees, and prohibit any conflicting, local minimum-wage requirements. Seattle P-I, 8-27-14.

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