If you want a good indication of how much is truly riding on SeaTac's $15 an hour minimum wage initiative, you need look no further than who is fighting it: The ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate-funded lobbying group behind "model legislation" like Stand Your Ground, Voter ID requirements, and paid sick leave preemptions. Two of our nation's most powerful right-wing political forces are joining together to fight and kill the $15 an hour minimum wage movement in tiny SeaTac before it has an opportunity to take root.
In a transparent effort to slander Prop. 1 supporters, the Koch-funded conservative faux-think tank Freedom Foundation released a report (pdf) accusing the unions backing the initiative of refusing to pay their own employees minimum wage while compensating their local presidents lavishly. "If unions support a $15 minimum wage on principle, why do they refuse to pay their own employees living wages...?" the report asks rhetorically.
It's a damning accusation. Except it's total bullshit. For example, the report claims that SEIU Healthcare 775NW pays about a third of its 148 employes less the $15 an hour—and about 20 percent of its employees less than the state mandated $9.19! How's that even possible? Hint: It isn't! What the report's author apparently did was take SEIU 775's annual report to the National Labor Relations Board—which merely lists annual income for each employee—and then divided each employee's income by 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year, making no accommodation for whether the employee might have worked part time or only part of the year. I've seen SEIU 775's pay scale. Nobody there currently makes less than $15.00.
And it's not just me saying so. Yes for SeaTac spokesperson Heather Weiner says that the Puget Sound Business Journal was prepared to do a piece based on the Freedom Foundation report, until they too realized that the numbers just didn't add up. That's because the "freedom" in "Freedom Foundation" apparently stands for "freedom from math."
"No surprise this report is full of inaccuracies and misleading data; it also compares apples to oranges by ignoring insurance, leave, and other benefits" earned by union employees, says Weiner. "Voters in SeaTac won't be distracted by diversionary attacks seen from the Koch brothers' groups elsewhere."
For the record, the Freedom Foundation is partially funded through Donors Trust, a Koch-funded shadow trust that Mother Jones recently described as "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement." The Freedom Foundation is also an active participant in ALEC. Just this past week the National Restaurant Association contributed $50,000 to the No on Prop. 1 campaign, on top of the $60,000 contributed by the Washington Restaurant. What's known in political circles as "the other NRA" also has close ties with ALEC, with whom it coordinates efforts to preempt local paid sick leave ordinances in 14 states.
So why are the Koch brothers and ALEC putting so much money and effort behind killing a ballot measure in tiny SeaTac? Because as the New York Times pointed out on Sunday, passage in SeaTac could have a huge impact on low-wage workers nationwide:
In an era in which organized labor mostly plays defense, unions targeted SeaTac and managed the signature-gathering process that put Proposition 1 on the ballot, viewing it as a potential model for raising wages and mobilizing workers in other parts of the country.
After decades of decline, organized labor my have finally found a new model for helping working people fight back against the Koch brothers of this world. And the Koch brothers of this world will do and say anything in order to kill this movement in its tracks.