Chamber Mobilizes Against Labor Proposals, Taxes

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce, a powerful voice for business interests in Seattle, sent a letter today urging its members to “speak as a team on three key issues” at city hall: a proposal to ban erratic, unpredictable schedules for workers; the way the city’s Office of Labor Standards spends its money; and new laws that businesses fear would increase costs, including a potential employee hours tax and commercial rent control.

The letter hints strongly that the business lobby is mobilizing to oppose not just the head tax but secure scheduling, mandatory paid family leave for private businesses, and rent control for small businesses. (All bolds in original.)

It is time for Mayor Murray and the Seattle City Council to demonstrate that they are a true partner to those of us who create jobs and run businesses,” Daudon writes, by not passing any new taxes on business; shifting the focus of the city Office of Labor Standards to employer, not employee education (currently, OLS spends 75 percent of grant funding educating employees about their rights under new employee protection laws; the Chamber wants that split to be 50-50); and moving cautiously on a proposal to require employers to provide consistent and predictable schedules for their workers.

“While most of these ideas come from a place of ensuring opportunity for our residents, proposals like these must be informed by a thoughtful, rational, data-driven process, and consider the collective impact on our economic competitiveness,” Daudon writes. “Most importantly, business must have an equal seat at the table during these discussions, which means we have to speak forcefully as a team and we need to do it now. It is important for us, the business community, to convey that we are part of the solution—not the problem.”

While you may agree or disagree with the Chamber’s perspective on taxes and labor issues, it’s hard to argue that they haven’t had “a seat at the table”; last year alone, the Chamber’s PAC, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), spent $487,000 on local races.

Daudon’s full letter is after the jump.

Message from the President: Speaking as a Team on Three Key Issues

Dear [Member]:

I am writing to update you on several City of Seattle issues that will very likely impact your business, and to ask for your help in communicating about these issues with Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council.

Over the past several years, the Chamber has been a true partner to the region. We’ve supported and put muscle behind many key initiatives to make our region an economically vibrant place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and to access a thriving quality of life. Whether it is supporting transit expansion, a major investment in the city’s transportation infrastructure, endorsing the affordable housing plan (HALA) and its related housing levy, or getting behind school levies, the business community has been there to the tune of over $4 billion. These are sound investments and it has been the right thing to do.

It is in this context that I write to you today. There are a number of City of Seattle policy proposals that directly impact our business community. It is time for Mayor Murray and the Seattle City Council to demonstrate that they are a true partner to those of us who create jobs and run businesses.

Over the past few years, the City Council has implemented a significant list of new laws – from an increasing minimum wage to paid sick leave and criminal background checks. Yet, as businesses attempt to adjust to these new rules and regulations, several additional taxes and policies are under consideration including: a “head tax” on businesses that would be used in large part to fund labor union and nonprofit outreach to encourage employee complaints;restrictive scheduling laws for shift workers; mandatory paid family leave for all private sector companies;commercial rent control; and an increase in other business taxes to fund additional police officers.

While most of these ideas come from a place of ensuring opportunity for our residents, proposals like these must be informed by a thoughtful, rational, data-driven process, and consider the collective impact on our economic competitiveness. Most importantly, business must have an equal seat at the table during these discussions, which means we have to speak forcefully as a team and we need to do it now. It is important for us, the business community, to convey that we are part of the solution—not the problem.

Critical facts that are important to the conversation:

  • Businesses have a longstanding history of stepping up and investing in what is best for the city.
  • Businesses generate 50 percent of the tax revenue for the City of Seattle.
  • Businesses have supported $4 billion in new local investments over the past two years.

Here are three key ways you can get involved:

1) Make the case that new taxes on business are not necessary for a $2 million increase in labor law enforcement

As I said to Crosscut, “This is kind of a nickel and diming approach to say for an increase of a little over $2 million we need a new tax — to me that’s not strategic.” Since 2014, the Chamber and our members have supported $4 billion in new local investments that address our region’s most pressing problems. Businesses already generate 50 percent of the tax revenue for the City of Seattle.

The City is already working with a $1.1 billion general fund budget, and the investments we supported have relieved pressure on that budget. The general fund should be the first stop for addressing fundamental responsibilities of the city.Send an email now to Mayor Murray and your Seattle City Councilmembers and share this message.

2) Advocate for a fair share of funding for educating employers on Seattle’s labor laws

Employers in Seattle are navigating four labor laws, and data shows that they want to comply. Employers have made 75 percent of the inquiries recorded by the Office of Labor Standards since the City’s four labor standards laws have been implemented. Despite that, less than 25 percent of the available grant funding is for educating employers. While the funding to educate employees was provided several months ago, and employees have the knowledge and legal advocates they need, funding to help employers is still months away from being issued.

This doesn’t make sense, and it keeps employers from getting the outreach they need to know the rules. Currently it takes an average of 192 days to resolve an investigation. Making sure employers have the information they need to comply up front will save OLS time and resources, and help workers get their compensation and benefits from the start. Send an email to Mayor Murray and your Seattle City Councilmembers and share why a 50/50 split is a better solution.

3) Share your insights on shift worker scheduling

The Seattle City Council has started exploring legislation that would restrict how employers schedule their shift workers. We are closely monitoring the process, and have consistently shared the message that Seattle must proceed thoughtfully: scheduling is highly complex and a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach will create more problems for employees. Furthermore, many businesses already have processes in place to directly meet the expectations of their employees. If you would like to share how you’ve adopted scheduling practices that work well for your employees, please contactMeadow Johnson, our senior vice president of external relations.

Our business community is incredibly committed to doing our part to build an economically vibrant and globally competitive Seattle region where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and to access a thriving quality of life. Let’s urge Mayor Murray and the Seattle City Council to work with us on a thoughtful path forward.

Sincerely,

Maud Daudon
President & CEO
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

3 thoughts on “Chamber Mobilizes Against Labor Proposals, Taxes

  1. Pingback: Chamber CEO: Labor Proposals Fail to Consider “Unintended Consequences” | The C Is for crank

  2. Pingback: Surprise, Surprise! The Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Seem to Like Secure Scheduling | Skunk Works

  3. In response to the Seattle Chamber of Congress’ plea to have equal representation at the table, lets bring in 487,000 workers, and talk about the real backbone of the economy. As an independent businessman for nearly 40 years in Seattle, I recognize that it is the consumer that creates jobs; the businessman simply sees an opportunity, and makes a living from it–but not without labor. And it is about time a city government was an advocate for labor, instead of playing along with the Chamber of Commerce. Thanks for this report. Can I call you Miss Cranky?

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