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.
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:
@ashleykgross oh no! good thing you have paid sick leave ... ;) hope you feel better soon. — Yes for SeaTac (@YesforSeaTac) March 26, 2014
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.