The Service Employees International Union filed an initiative petition Tuesday to tax Seattle businesses to provide additional funding for the city’s Office of Labor Standards to enforce Seattle labor laws, including mandatory sick and safe leave, the $15 minimum wage, and a law banning employers from asking about criminal records on job applications.
The initiative would impose a 1-cent-per-employee-hour tax on business licenses (in business parlance, a “head tax”); OLS would use the money, according to the initiative, “to contract with community-based employee advocate organizations, or coalitions of advocate organizations, to perform outreach, education, and compliance assistance” to employees and employers in Seattle.”
Essentially, the initiative would require the city to grant funds raised by a tax on businesses to nonprofit organizations (CASA Latina is reportedly a likely contender) to educate workers about their rights under the city’s new labor laws. The money would also pay for direct investigations into alleged violations of the minimum wage, paid sick and save leave, and criminal-history laws.
Under the initiative, 40 percent of the $0.01-per-hour business-license surcharge would fund the OLS directly; 50 percent would pay for contracts with community organizations; and 10 percent would pay for outreach and education to businesses.
I have a call out to SEIU 775 secretary-treasurer Adam Glickman, who signed the letter submitting the initiative proposal to the city clerk. Once the initiative is approved, the group will start collecting signatures for the proposal.
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Maud Daudon, who is on a Chamber trip in Miami, said she couldn’t comment on the initiative until she’d had a chance to read it. However, Daudon says that in general, “We don’t think the head tax is a good idea,” and that labor law enforcement is “a core city function that should be paid out of the general fund,” not by a tax on employers.
The full letter submitting the initiative to the city clerk is here ;I’ll update when I hear back from Glickman, to whom labor attorney Dmitri Iglitzen, whose office drafted the measure, referred my questions.