Endorsed by New York Times, SeaTac’s $15 Minimum Wage Measure Headed Back to Court

Opponents of SeaTac’s Prop 1 - which, if ultimately approved by voters, would raise the minimum wage for some hospitality and transportation workers around the airport to $15 an hour - have made it clear they don’t intend to take the proposition sitting down. Or without a fight. Or however you want to say it.

And according to Amy Martinez of the Seattle Times, these opponents have again affirmed their stance, filing an amended lawsuit last week in King County Superior Court seeking to invalidate the minimum-wage-hiking effort.

As Martinez reports for the Times:

Airport food concessionaire Filo Foods, along with Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association, filed an amended lawsuit Friday in King County Superior Court seeking to invalidate the ballot measure.

In addition to suing the city of SeaTac, opponents now are bringing legal action against the Port of Seattle, which owns and operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

And ...

The amended suit by opponents claims SeaTac Proposition 1 is unenforceable because it exceeds the small city’s initiative power and legislative authority, noting that the airport falls under the Port of Seattle’s control.

The lawsuit seeks a court ruling to prevent Proposition 1 from being enforced at the airport, plus attorneys’ fees.

It’s not the first time they’ve gone this route, of course. Earlier this year King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled that Prop 1 proponents hadn’t collected enough valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot -- a legal play that was overturned in September by the Washington Court of Appeals. Opponents of Prop 1 have also argued that the measure “violates the state’s ‘single subject’ rule for voter initiatives by proposing multiple requirements,” as Martinez’s story notes.

Meanwhile, the New York Times editorial board has weighed in on the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage in SeaTac, writing yesterday:

... Although the votes are still being tallied, the people of SeaTac, the small city south of Seattle where the airport is, have shown support for a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage of the airport’s transportation and hospitality workers to $15 an hour, starting Jan. 1.

That would make the minimum wage at Sea-Tac airport considerably higher than Washington State’s minimum of $9.19 an hour. It would be more than the $12.93-an-hour minimum at the San Francisco International Airport, which was enacted in 2000. And it would blow away the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, in place since 2009, and exceed a proposal in recent legislation, sponsored by Congressional Democrats and supported by President Obama, for a new federal minimum of $10.10 an hour.

All of which makes $15 an hour sound too high. Hardly. Over the last half-century, American workers have achieved productivity gains that can easily support a $15-an-hour minimum wage. In fact, if the minimum wage had kept pace over time with the average growth in productivity, it would be about $17 an hour. The problem is that the benefits of that growth have flowed increasingly to profits, shareholders and executives, not workers. The result has been bigger returns to capital, higher executive pay — and widening income inequality.

Currently, Prop 1 is clinging to a slim 43-vote lead. The latest vote count is expected to be released at 4:30 pm. Whichever way things go, it’s clear that the debate - and court battles - are far from over.

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