Sea-Tac Living Wage Initiative will go to the Ballot in November

The King County elections department has verified signatures for a new initiative in the City of SeaTac that would promote living wage jobs.   Several weeks ago 40 Sea-Tac workers, residents, business owners, faith leaders, and labor organizers handed the signatures to the SeaTac City Council.

Puget Sound Sage’s Below the Radar report, released in March, revealed that Sea-Tac airport has substandard working conditions compared to four major West Coast airports that have taken action to address the adverse effects of low-wage jobs and outsourcing. The initiative adopts many of the recommended workforce standards outlined in the report.

If adopted the initiative would cover SeaTac transportation and hospitality workers and ensure that they receive paid sick leave and  earn a living wage of at least $15 an hour.  For existing part-time workers it would allow the opportunity for full-time employment, and would require contractors taking over for another business to retain existing employees for at least 90 days.  It would additionally stop employers from holding onto “service charges” and tips that workers are owed.

So which workers would benefit? The new policy would cover low-wage SeaTac transportation workers, including baggage handlers, passenger services workers, cabin cleaners, aircraft rulers, security staff in and around the airport, private car rental and parking lot services, as well as many SeaTac hospitality workers who work hotels within or at the airport. Small businesses that have fewer than 10 workers, hotels with less than 30 workers, and other businesses with fewer than 25 workers would not be affected.

Follow Sound Progress to find out more about what is in the initiative and what it would do.  Howard Greenwich, Puget Sound Sage Research and Policy Director, will be posting an analysis in early July.  In the meantime, read the recent Opinion Editorial in the Puget Sound Business Journal, Wages: Sea-Tac’s self-inflicted wound.

How Can Sea-Tac Airport Become a First Class Port?

sea-tac airportSea-Tac Airport has fallen behind minimum workforce standards set by other major West Coast Ports. Other cities and ports in the coastal region have made significant gains toward reducing poverty, increasing customer service and creating safer and more secure operations. However, Sea-Tac Airport’s governing body, the Port of Seattle, has yet to lay out a serious agenda to keep up.

So what can the Port of Seattle do to ensure that Sea-Tac is a First Class Port?  How about taking a cue from San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland:

Raise Worker Wages: All four airports raised wages to reduce poverty in their cities.  Thousands of airline contractor employees on the West Coast currently earn $3.74 to $6.18 more per hour than their counterparts at SeaTac.

Paid Sick Leave: Concerned with the public cost of care for uninsured airport workers, as well as the risk of exposure to H1N1 and potential pandemics at the airport, LA’s City Council offered paid sick days and offered a health insurance incentive for workers at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Develop and Implement Workforce Standards:  San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors implemented workforce standards at San Francisco International Airport to address the adverse effects of low wages and high turnover.  Fifteen months after implementing these standards, employee turnover fell dramatically, decreasing by an average of 60% among firms that experienced average wage increases of 10 % or more.  How did they do it?  By implementing minimum compensation standards, enhanced hiring practices, improved working conditions and increased training.  They also established a Health Care Accountability Ordinance, which guaranteed quality health insurance for most port workers.

Implement a Living Wage Policy:  After learning about low-wage working conditions at Oakland International Airport, Oakland voters overwhelmingly approved (78%) a living wage ballot measure for all airport workers.  A similar policy will go to the voters of the City of SeaTac in November 2013.  For more information about this initiative read our post on the Good Jobs Initiative.

For more information about what the Port of Seattle can do read the report Below the Radar

SeaTac Airport Falls Behind West Coast Workforce Standards

SeaTac Airport plays a big role in the regional economy generating $13.2 billion in economic activity and 138,000 jobs in the Puget Sound Region. That should be good news for the regional job market. However, Sea-Tac Airport has fallen behind minimum workforce standards set by other major West Coast Ports.  SeaTac airport jobs offer lower wages, and significantly fewer paid days off (see chart below.)

In sharp contrast to Sea-Tac Airport’s governing body, the Port of Seattle, public officials in four West Coast cities – San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland – have implemented quality work standards for airport workers. Such standards aim to reduce poverty, increase customer service, and create safer and more secure operations.  Although notable decisions at the Port have set new standards for a “race to the top” for executives including Port Commissioners and the CEO, many other airport workers rank near the bottom in terms of pay and benefits among the airport’s west coast peers.

Below the Radar 1

How can the Port of Seattle make Sea-Tac a First-Class Airport?  Follow the example of their west coast counterparts.  These same four airports have implemented standards to reduce poverty, strengthen safety and security, improve public health and minimize the public cost of their workforces.  For more information about how, read our blog article or visit our website to view the full report.

Gentrification + Destabilizing Factors = Displacement

Rainier Valley Kids
photo by Carina A. del Rosario

It is a widely held belief that economic development in an under-invested neighborhood inevitably – though regrettably – leads to the displacement of people of color, immigrants, refugees and low income people regardless of race.

“When a neighborhood is targeted for investment, people get pushed out and that’s just the way it is,” or so the story goes. This presumption is a dangerous and erroneous oversimplification of a very complex situation.

Gentrification alone does not necessarily cause displacement, but it creates the conditions for it. Largely by increasing the cost of living, gentrification creates a downward pressure on low-income residents. Without anywhere to gain an economic edge, low-income residents are eventually forced to seek housing elsewhere and are displaced from their neighborhoods.

But it doesn’t need to happen that way. Public policies can ensure that current residents benefit from economic growth and investments in their communities. See our article on Five Ways Seattle Policy Makers Can Promote Racial Equity in Southeast Seattle.

Unfortunately current gentrification trends in Southeast Seattle are likely to increase displacement pressures on communities of color. There are multiple factors that make Rainier Valley households more vulnerable to increases in the cost of living and therefore more susceptible for displacement .

  • High percentage of renters: Renters comprise a significant number (44%) of Rainier Valley residents and the vast majority of people from Rainier Valley who live in poverty are renters (90%). Low-income renters are most vulnerable to increased costs in the housing market.
  • High unemployment: Residents of Rainier Valley are unemployed at a rate 50% higher than the rest of Seattle.
  • Low wage Jobs: Rainier Valley residents fall short in earnings compared to the rest of the city. Only 18% of residents earn more than $65,000 compared to Seattle as a whole, where over 46% of the population earns more than $65,000 annually.
  • High foreclosure rate: Rainier Valley neighborhoods have experienced significantly higher rates of foreclosure than central and northern Seattle neighborhoods.

For more information about how gentrification trends are affecting South Seattle neighborhoods, read our full report Transit Oriented Development that’s Healthy, Green & Just.

Displacement of Residents in South Seattle Could Undermine Environmental Goals of Transit Oriented Development TOD

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) holds the promise of making our communities more livable and environmentally sustainable.  However, the displacement of residents related to gentrification and destabilizing factors within a community could significantly derail progress toward Seattle’s environmental goals.

The reduction of carbon emissions is critical to addressing climate change.  Yet the goal of getting more people out of their cars and using alternative sources of transportation like transit, walking and biking  could be seriously undermined if TOD serves primarily middle- and-upper –income households.

Rainier Valley residents at risk for displacement are more likely than potential in-coming residents to the neighborhood to be regular transit riders. Potential in-coming residents are much more likely to be auto-oriented.  In fact, the current residents of the Rainier Valley have low auto-ownership compared to the rest of the city and use transit often.

Seattle residents with lower incomes use transit more frequently to get to work (23 %) than their higher-earning neighbors (14%). They also use transit more frequently than low-earning residents throughout King County (13%) or high earning workers (10%). This stark difference demonstrates that TOD gets the best transit ridership from ensuring low-earning workers can stay in transit rich neighborhoods like Rainier Valley.

But displacement threatens to push current residents outside the city and into area suburbs.  Regardless of income, living outside of Seattle forces the majority of suburbanites into cars. For example, suburban areas south of Rainier Valley, where most people of color have located over the last decade, enjoy less frequent and lower density transit service. The numbers of jobs accessible by public transportation decreases the farther workers live from the urban core. In Rainier Valley 56% of all jobs in the region are accessible by public transit in less than 90 minutes. However, in Renton and Kent the access drops to 40% and 37%.

Additionally, new immigrants and people of color are the region’s fastest growing populations. Unless TOD includes these groups, new immigrants and people of color are likely to follow regional patterns and locate in the suburbs. Once there, the Puget Sound region will miss an opportunity to curb sprawl and focus new population growth in dense transit-rich neighborhoods.

For more information on gentrification, displacement and public policy solutions in South Seattle, read the full report: Transit Oriented Development that’s Healthy, Green & Just.

Five Ways Policy-Makers Can Promote Racial Equity in South Seattle

Puget Sound Sage advances the following principles to inform planning and public policy designed to encourage Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in Rainier Valley. This list should not be viewed as comprehensive, but a starting point to deepen public and private sector commitment to incorporating racial justice into TOD initiatives.

1. Existing Rainier Valley residents should benefit from TOD investment and be able to thrive in place.
2. Creating quality jobs for Rainier Valley residents should be elevated as an equity strategy equivalent to creating low-income housing.
3. Affordable housing should be incorporated into TOD that meets the needs of low-income families and communities of color and scales to create adequate opportunity.
4. Community-serving institutions and businesses are needed to stabilize existing low-income communities of color as gentrification occurs.
5. Racial equity outcomes, not racial diversity goals, should drive TOD planning.

For more information about gentrification, displacement and public policy solutions in South Seattle, read the full report: Transit Oriented Development that’s Healthy, Green & Just.