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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Fight Won't Be Over Once We Pass a Minimum Wage Law

Posted by on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 11:40 AM

I feel like when I mention enforcement of any new minimum wage laws, people think it sounds silly. Of course it'll be enforced, they say. It'll just, like, be on people's paychecks and W-2's, right? And you can't lie about that! If someone tries to pay anyone less than minimum wage, the workers will just say "You can't do that!" and someone will magically fly down and fix it.

Except Seattle has a crappy history of enforcing its recent spate of worker-friendly laws—a stricter anti-wage-theft ordinance and the paid-sick-time law are two we've mentioned before.

And now, down in SeaTac, comes this story, from KPLU's Ashley Gross:

Thirteen workers at Extra Car Airport Parking in SeaTac submitted complaints to the city earlier this year, saying their boss is not paying them the $15 an hour that they’re due under a voter-approved law that went into effect on Jan. 1. Instead, workers there got a 32-cent raise. Many now make $10.32 an hour.

Now, five of those 13 people who filed the complaints have been fired. One of them is Lou Lehman, who worked part-time for Extra Car. She says after filing her complaint and after speaking with KPLU for a previous story, her boss pulled her aside.

"She said, 'Um, I need to talk to you. Can you work full-time? Are you able to work full-time?' I said, 'No,'" Lehman said. "I mean, they know I can’t. This is my second job. She said, 'OK, we’re going to have to let you go. We’re going to only have full-time people.' Boom. That was it."

But Lehman says she thinks the firing was in retaliation; she knows other people who are still working there part-time. Lehman says her boss singled out workers who spoke up about not getting the raise, and she says they’re going to fight it.

Fired workers are rallying down in SeaTac right now, outside the parking lot they were fired from. And alerting some reporters to the rally on Twitter brought about this exchange:

Haha, and a good reminder. An enforcement component will have to be taken seriously if this law is gonna be worth all the blood, sweat, and tears it'll take to craft it and pass it—because not everyone works for a company with a nice HR department making sure they comply with all labor laws.


Comments (10) RSS

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Fnarf 1
I don't know if WallyPark is paying their workers correctly, but I know they are collecting an extra fee to cover that wage, on top of what they regularly charge, which seems like kind of a "fuck you" message to me.
Posted by Fnarf on March 26, 2014 at 11:55 AM · Report this
The city's Sick Leave Law is widely ignored by many businesses whose employees are supposed be covered by it.
Posted by atomica99 on March 26, 2014 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
Just make binding votes on exec pay & benefits by share owners of corps & nonprofits like the EU and Japan do and end the carried interest exemption

Problem solved
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 26, 2014 at 12:07 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 4
What does the SPD do? They don't enforce the cell phone law or vulnerable user law. They don't protect you from hate crimes and they sure as hell don't protect anybody from domestic abuse.

Why do we have them? It's like we need to go create a whole separate government agency to enforce the actual law while over in the SPD domain they are fully engaged with non-reform and dodging blame and figuring out who to promote.

Oh, wait, jaywalking. They write a metric fuck ton of jaywalking tickets from their saddles their hogs. Nobody can take away the SPD's sterling jaywalking enforcement.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on March 26, 2014 at 12:07 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
Lol, I remember when SPD ticketed jaywalkers a LOT more
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 26, 2014 at 12:17 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 6
I have this same sort of question about the Affordable Care Act. Sure, the law says that insurance companies have to pay claims, can't deny pre-existing conditions, etc. But how is that actually going to be enforced?
When you get screwed by BlueCross, do you have to retain a lawyer and spend as much money on legal fees as you would on medical bills? Is some middling government employee going to successfully threaten them with fines? The law was essentially written by the insurance companies, so why do we think they won't try to abuse the system, as they've been doing for decades?

A law isn't a law until it is broken and then properly enforced.
Posted by Sir Vic on March 26, 2014 at 12:29 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 7

One thing about ACA is that it doesn't require a given insurance company to cover you. I know that caused some of the caterwauling over Obama's "if you like your insurance, you can keep it" gaffe. Even ACA compliant policies were yanked because an insurance company decided to leave a state entirely or whatever; United did that to California. (Side note: I used to have United, and it sucked shit.)

Your insurance company can dump you if it feels like it. It's not *supposed* to do it because your care is too expensive, but how do you prove it if that's the reason? You can't.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 26, 2014 at 12:58 PM · Report this
@6 and @7. We're still working getting single payer because ACA has acknowledged it is going to leave out millions of people and won't stop people from going bankrupt over medical bills. Single payer will be cheaper and more efficient.…
Posted by Linda J on March 26, 2014 at 1:07 PM · Report this
9… Murray: It's one thing to raise the wage, but if you're not enforcing that wage then you're really not raising the wage for those individuals.

And wtf is with Rolf saying that one day we'll look on Seattle's efforts to raise the minimum wage as we now look at Birmingham and Selma (32 minutes in).
Posted by ChefJoe on March 26, 2014 at 8:12 PM · Report this
@8 Single payer is the only way to go. I remember hearing about opinion polls showing that most Americans were for the single payer option, but the corporate overlords would not accept it, and so it was never even discussed as an option. Maybe a step in the right direction would be to create a governmental/ public insurance company that could compete with the private ones. That way at least the tax money used to subsidize insurance plans would not flow to private companies, but back to the government and ultimately the people.
Posted by Pate on March 27, 2014 at 7:36 AM · Report this

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