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Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 28, 2013 at 7:54 AM

Minimum wage in SeaTac

Vital issues deserving attention

Workers from Sea-Tac Airport held a rally Tuesday near SeaTac City Hall in support of a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for many airport workers. Then they marched to the city council meeting and filled the place to capacity while the council voted to put the measure on the ballot in November. [Mark Harrison, The Seattle Times.]

Workers from Sea-Tac Airport held a rally Tuesday near SeaTac City Hall in support of a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for many airport workers. Then they marched to the city council meeting and filled the place to capacity while the council voted to put the measure on the ballot in November. [Mark Harrison, The Seattle Times.]

Two stories in The Times, on minimum wage [“$15 minimum wage?”, page one, July 25] and striking farmworkers [“Striking farmworkers say Sakuma threatened eviction from housing,” Northwest Thursday, July 25], place two issues where they belong, front and center.

Both are important issues: the distinction between a minimum and a living wage, and the increasing gap between the shares of labor and capital in our economy.

With no standard of “maximum salary” parallel to “minimum wage” and little regulatory constraint on profits or on tax loopholes, the cards are now stacked to management’s and ownership’s benefit.

Income and perhaps wealth-distribution gaps are wider during the current “recovery” than they have been since the 1920s. It’s widely acceptable to attack unions, while corporate profits far outstrip job growth, especially factoring in part-time and multitasking labor.

The economist quoted said people are beginning to ask, rightly, “is there a fair distribution between profits and wages?”

I ask, what is outrageous about a $15 living wage around SeaTac or $4.75 per box of berries in county farms, when wages are so compressed compared with salaries and profits?

The specific features of airport, farm labor and other work environments, and private-public-sector distinctions, call for varied approaches and solutions. But the principle of negotiating the terms should prevail, recognizing labor’s legitimacy as well as “the other sides,” with the largest and longest term equitable public good as a goal.

Milt Krieger, Bellingham

Minimum wage is not a living wage

Workers from Sea-Tac Airport held a rally Tuesday near SeaTac City Hall in support of a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for many airport workers. [Mark Harrison, The Seattle Times.]

Workers from Sea-Tac Airport held a rally Tuesday near SeaTac City Hall in support of a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for many airport workers. [Mark Harrison, The Seattle Times.]

As one of a number of faith leader, both Christian and Muslim, at the first city of SeaTac hearing on the proposed Good Jobs Initiative on July 16, I was struck at how few of those who spoke understood the realities of working poverty that are growing like a cancer in this country.

A wage of $9.50 an hour — earned by airport baggage handlers — clearly requires a second or maybe even third job just to pay the rent, and even then children may not have healthy or sufficient food. Think of the terrible strain on a family in such straits!

And even if the initiative of $15 an hour is approved, that still translates to about $2,400 a month (assuming a 40-hour workweek). The Economic Policy Institute’s “Family Wage Calculator,” specific to the Seattle and Tacoma areas, calculates a monthly income (rent, food, health care, transportation) for a family of one parent and one child at about $4,300. That is how far out of whack the inequalities of wealth and poverty have become.

Finally, it needs to be noted that retail stores with fewer than 10 workers, hotels with fewer than 30 workers, and other airport businesses with fewer than 25 workers are all exempt from this initiative.

Rev. Dick Gillet, Seattle

0 Comments | More in Economy, Seattle | Topics: farmers, job growth, living wage

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