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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Category: Discussion
April 14, 2014 at 6:21 AM

Forum: The gender pay gap is real. Have you been affected?

The wage gap between men and women is pervasive. Whether the national average difference is 77 percent, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, or 84 percent, according to the Pew Research Center, male employees still have an advantage.

That’s just wrong. Women deserve equal pay for doing the same work as their male peers and an equal shot at climbing up the success ladder.

The gap has closed over the years, but as Pew notes in the video below, progress is slowing down. Take a look:

Have you personally experienced pay inequities in your career? What do you think is the cause of this? Do you have ideas for solutions to close the gap? Scroll down to the form at the end of this post and tell us.

First, take a look at Saturday’s Seattle Times editorial supporting the city’s efforts to close inequities within its own ranks. The narrative is a familiar one. Many lower-wage jobs tend to be held by women, while most of the higher-paying jobs and leadership positions are held by men.

The same trends apply nationwide. The current system limits upward mobility, but there’s hope for change as employers start to analyze the root causes of pay inequity, women continue to outpace men in earning college degrees and bosses allow more flexible hours.

Alas, many of us demand changes now and lament the reasons why inequities persist in this post-”Mad Men” world.

Here’s a few reasons, culled from various news reports:

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0 Comments | Topics: city of seattle, discrimination, gap

March 18, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Poll: Do you agree with Seattle City Council’s decision to limit Lyft, uberX and Sidecar?

No big surprises with the Seattle City Council’s unanimous decision on Monday to cap technology-based ride-services such as Lyft, uberX and Sidecar. The council passed a two-year pilot program to legalize and limit each network to 150 drivers at any given time, and to raise the number of taxi licenses by 200 over the next two years. (Read Seattle Times reporter Alexa Vaughn’s news side story.)

Taxi driver Benyam Hailu holds a sign as he waits for a meeting of the Seattle City Council to begin, Monday, March 17, 2014 in Seattle. The Council was voting on rules and regulations that have pitted supporters of ride-share and other non-traditional transportation companies against taxi and for-hire drivers and operators. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Taxi driver Benyam Hailu holds a sign as he waits for a meeting of the Seattle City Council to begin, Monday, March 17, 2014 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

As The Seattle Times editorial board argued in this March 14 editorial, the city should have focused less on caps — for both taxis and ride-services — and more on consumer safety and leveling the playing field for all drivers. Increased competition has improved customer service over the last year, and it would be a shame to see ride-services cut back services in a city where people are driving less and demanding more affordable transportation options.

The other takeaway? This likely becomes a political issue in the next city council election cycle. See Uber Seattle’s tweet after the vote, which was retweeted at least 100 times as of Monday evening.

Before Mayor Ed Murray signs Council Bill 118036, he should also consider convening a panel to review and revamp the city’s antiquated taxi regulations. In a timely statement released after the vote, Murray indicated he plans to get more involved:

“As Mayor, I will direct my staff and the Facilities and Administrative Services Department Director to engage stakeholders and experts outside of City government in further discussions. Based on these discussions, I then plan to submit to Council my own recommendations to both ensure customer safety and improve customer choice while leveling the playing field for all industry players.”

This entire process has put Seattle in the spotlight because its city council is the first in the nation to limit the growth of a wildly popular service. Hopefully, Lyft, uberX and Sidecar officials learned along the way that they must release data much sooner and develop better relations with the council. Several elected members showed a willingness to revisit the cap in the future, but not until the market has time to adjust and the networks agree to be more transparent about their insurance policies.

Below the poll and forum, look for a sampling of reactions from the council members.

Do you agree with the council’s decision? Vote in the poll below. 

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0 Comments | More in Discussion, Polls | Topics: lyft, ride-services, ridesharing

December 19, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Reader responses to Seattle ridesharing proposal

Thanks to our readers for your thoughtful and interesting comments in response to the Seattle City Council’s draft plan to regulate app-powered ridesharing services in Seattle, such as uberX, Lyft and Sidecar.

A member of the public speaks before the Seattle City Council's Committee on Taxi, For-hire and Limousine Regulatiion on Dec. 13, 2013 at City Hall Council Chambers. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

A member of the public speaks before the Seattle City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-hire and Limousine Regulations on Dec. 13, 2013 at City Hall. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

In this Monday Opinion Northwest post, I argued that the city’s proposed efforts to regulate these popular new services using old-school standards punish innovation and do not increase consumer safety or choice. The council is considering whether to limit each of these ridesharing networks to 100 vehicles and many drivers to 16 hours per week. A vote is expected sometime early next year, so now is the time for a robust public discussion.

Here’s what some of you have to say about whether and how ridesharing should be regulated:

Absolutely. In an effort to live according to our environmental and urbanist values, my wife and I got rid of our car a year ago. We walk, ride our bikes, take the bus and use a number of ridesharing services to get around town. We rarely use traditional taxis because they are unreliable, especially when you need them most (i.e. rainy weather) and the service is usually not very good. Just try paying with a credit card and the driver has to run your card through an old-school carbon-copy machine. It’s like returning to last century. In contrast, the rideshare services have much better service (just ask the drivers how they like their jobs), are more convenient and are available when you need them most because of pricing that responds to demand.

By stifling these innovations, it becomes harder for people to become less dependent on cars, which contributes to the ongoing cycle of ever-increasing traffic congestion. Seattle thinks of itself as a city that embraces innovation and forward thinking. However, on this issue, our City Council is way behind.

— Gabriel Grant, Seattle

No. All this does is hurt the taxi and for-hire drivers who have worked hard to play by the rules. The stated demand is simply for a cheaper service. These new companies aren’t modeled on providing a cheaper service on a level playing field, they simply pick off the taxis’ best fares and do so without licensing fees, safety or insurance standards. This isn’t a new market segment against the established taxis, it’s the black market versus the law-abiding market.

Level the playing field. The current proposal is TOO lenient on these illegal black market rideshare companies.

— Pat Flanagan, Seattle

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0 Comments | More in Discussion | Topics: lyft, rideshare, Seattle

October 2, 2013 at 5:23 PM

Reader voices: Effects of the government shutdown

On Monday we asked our readers: “Have you experienced the government shutdown?” Submissions have been coming in this week. Below are a few of the responses we’ve received, showing the human impact caused by the “high drama” of shuttering government. If you would like to contribute to our coverage, enter your submission in the form at the bottom of this post.

“My husband and I both work for the EPA and were sent home Monday. We work in the Superfund program where hazardous waste cleanups are now continuing without government oversight. We’ve got money saved, but many  ‘feds’ live paycheck-to-paycheck and none of us know how long we’ll be off work or whether we’ll get paid for the time off.”
— Lynne Kershner, Seattle

Feeling the federal government shutdown here in Chimacum. Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park just canceled their large order we just washed and packed for them. Hopefully this all will be cleared up soon, for all the federal employees and programs — as well as for us lowly farmers.
— Karyn Williams, Red Dog Farm, Chimacum

Went to the McChord AFB Commissary Tuesday for regular shopping. Total madhouse. Amid signs and PA announcements that advised the Defense Commissary Agency is shutting down all stores in the continental U.S. until funding is approved by Congress. Imagine the impact of these huge stores losing all the fresh meat and produce during a forced shutdown? Plus the impact on our young enlisted personnel families losing this vital benefit?
— Ben Yount, Federal Way

I work in math advocacy and spend a lot of time on the U.S. Department of Education website finding and using education research. This is the message I got when trying to access the website: “Due to a lapse of appropriations and the partial shutdown of the Federal Government, the systems that host ies.ed.gov have been shut down. Services will be restored as soon as a continuing resolution to provide funding has been enacted.”
— Aimee Krol, Seattle

My daughter finally got a federal job last week after at least seven years trying. She has a master’s degree and has been working for little more than minimum wage as she has sought professional level work in her field. The job requires her to move to another state. Now she is in limbo about what to do concerning her current job, her move, etc. Her family has been financially struggling for years. They don’t need this added stress and confusion.
Diane Bommer, Port Townsend

I’ve had a passport appointment for two weeks that was canceled today due to the shutdown. I’m supposed to travel internationally in 3 weeks. If the government doesn’t get its act together soon, this trip I’ve been planning for so long obviously can’t happen.
Jessica Mautone, Berkeley, Calif.

My 7-year-old daughter became fascinated with Zion National Park after her best friend visited there this summer. I surprised her by organizing a backpacking trip there leaving Oct. 2, complete with hard-to-get backcountry campsite reservations, plane tickets to Vegas and a rental car. The parks shut Oct. 1; I canceled that night. I lost $350 and she cried and cried. I figure we are the lucky ones though. At least I still have a job. At least we aren’t depending on federal money for cancer research for a family member.
Brad Traum, Issaquah

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0 Comments | More in Discussion | Topics: federal, government, Reader voices

October 1, 2013 at 8:15 AM

The decline of meth in Washington: bye bye Walter White

In “Breaking Bad” a Washington state drama, Walter White’s blue meth would’ve been the bomb 10 years ago. That’s when, by some measures, meth peaked as the drug of choice. It was an “epidemic” in news reports (including mine). But meth’s decline has skipped notice. Like Walter White (no spoilers), meth skipped town, but is still dangerous. The Department of…

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0 Comments | More in Discussion | Topics: DOE, Meth, Walter White

July 29, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Discuss: What do you think about SeaTac’s minimum-wage initiative?

SeaTac residents are on the verge of possibly voting for what would be the highest minimum wage in the country. This is the time to ask questions. Lot of them.

Last Tuesday, the SeaTac City Council voted to send the SeaTac Good Jobs Initiative to the November ballot without changes. It would have gone there regardless after Working Washington, an organizing arm of the Service Employees International Union, collected thousands of signatures in May.

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 July 23, 2014 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)

Supporters of the proposal argue it will pull transportation and hospitality workers in and around Sea-Tac Airport out of poverty by increasing wages from $9.19 to $15, starting in January 2014.

However, some business owners say a hefty 62 percent increase in hourly wages would force them to close or limit hiring.

Initiative backers contend living-wage increases in other West Coast airports in San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco have not led to such dire consequences.

Expect a long and heavily funded debate on this issue. If the SeaTac initiative passes, it is likely to head to other cities in Washington. Look at what’s happening in Seattle alone, where Mayor Mike McGinn has opposed Whole Foods’ efforts to expand in West Seattle unless it increases worker pay and fast-food workers have filed complaints against employers for wage theft.

Here are some early questions and concerns about the initiative:

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0 Comments | More in Discussion | Topics: economy, jobs, minimum wage

July 29, 2013 at 7:09 AM

Readers respond to column linking poverty and geography

My recent column took on a sobering report by economists at Harvard and University of California at Berkeley that poor children growing up in certain cities will have a far more difficult time escaping poverty than others. Check out this New York Times interactive and map of the “Equality of Opportunity” project.

The reasons make sense: some cities, Atlanta for  example, are sprawling behemoths where good jobs, schools and housing are located geographically out of reach for low-income families, many of whom  often lack cars or other reliable transportation. Cities most likely to engender success, including Seattle, have strong economies and accessible public services.

Readers responded with views that often diverged on their personal ascents out of poverty:

Anna Bee wondered what researchers, and my column, meant by economic “success.” This reader also appeared to take issue with my mentioning social safety nets as key to successfully moving out of poverty.

“I am betting it has everything to do with how graciously one accepts handouts. I’ve never been good at that. We just weren’t raised that way. Maybe it is because our zip code was always changing so that my mother and father could keep us fed without having to ask for hand outs.”

Good ole Preposterousness from Idaho offered a sobering truth: “In today’s economy you can do everything right, including being born in the correct ZIP code, and still fall out of the middle class.”  Indeed.

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0 Comments | More in Discussion | Topics: children, Education, higher education