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

Topic: economy

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August 11, 2014 at 6:13 AM

Why Gov. Jay Inslee goes against the grain industry

Wheat harvest along the Washington-Idaho border, 2013 (photo by Jeff Horner/ Walla Walla Union-Bulletin)

Wheat harvest along the Washington-Idaho border, 2013. (photo by Jeff Horner/ Walla Walla Union-Bulletin)

A letter from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee explains a curious decision that has bollixed up the wheat harvest throughout the western United States this year. Good bet it will infuriate more people than it will soothe.

In it the Democratic governor appears to say the issue is purely a labor dispute involving 44 union positions at the Port of Vancouver. The only acknowledgement of the enormous disruption he has caused for thousands of farmers and for the rural economy from the Washington coast to the Midwest is a throwaway line: “I remain committed to a healthy, thriving agricultural industry.”

The letter is the fullest explanation Inslee has offered – read it below. But first it might be useful to check in with agriculture, which has been doing all it can to reopen the United Grain Corp. terminal, a facility responsible for nearly 20 percent of the exports from the West Coast.

On July 6, in the 17th month of a lockout involving the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Inslee withdrew State Patrol protection for Washington grain inspectors who had been crossing what they called a dangerous picket line.

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Comments | Topics: agriculture, economy, Jay Inslee

April 3, 2014 at 6:42 AM

$15 makes Seattle outlier compared with other cities that raised minimum wage

Nine city or county governments across the country have increased their minimum wage. A University of California, Berkeley study commissioned by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s income inequality committee concludes that a higher wage floor can increase productivity and reduce turnover, cushioning the macro-economic cost. Based on studies, it suggested companies could “adjust to higher…

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Comments | Topics: business, economy, minimum wage

November 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Poll: Weighing the JPMorgan Chase bank settlement

In 2010, former Washington Mutual bank executives spoke at U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on high-risk loans. The bank was later bought by JPMorgan Chase which has just settled litigation brought by the federal government for $13 billion. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In 2010, former Washington Mutual bank executives spoke at a U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on high-risk loans. The bank was later bought by JPMorgan Chase, which has just settled litigation brought by the federal government for $13 billion. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay $13 billion, including $4 billion for consumer relief and $6 billion to investors who lost big during the bank’s risky mortgage securities schemes. This settlement with the U.S. government is larger than any other Wall Street settlement and is roughly equivalent to half the bank’s annual profit. JPMorgan also agreed to a statement of facts, in which the bank admitted to key failures in buying toxic mortgage securities from 2005 to 2008. This NPR report offers a breakdown of the settlement and who gets the money.

A number of institutions will receive money in the settlement. Investors in JPMorgan appeared positive about the settlement. Shares of the New York-based bank rose 41 cents, or 0.7%, to $56.15 on Tuesday, as major U.S. stock indexes edged lower. This Los Angeles Times story offers more investor details.

I’m glad JPMorgan gave up trying to argue that it should not be held culpable for problems that came from the banks it acquired, including investment bank Bear Stearns and thrift Washington Mutual. But this does not end the anger and emotion surrounding the bank. Critics of the settlement call it a sweetheart deal engineered by a Wall Street-friendly Obama administration. Defenders call it precedent-setting, comparing it to the $4.5 billion in fines and penalties paid by British Petroleum over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A Seattle Times editorial welcomed the BP settlement.

The JPMorgan settlement could become a template the federal government would use to guide future action against other banks. If so, is the settlement letting JPMorgan off too lightly or is it in proportion to the bank’s transgressions? Take this poll.

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Comments | Topics: barack obama, economy, housing

November 1, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Who a $15 minimum wage would devastate: James Shin of Quality Inn SeaTac

Quality Inn SeaTac (Photo courtesy of James Shin)

Quality Inn SeaTac (Photo courtesy of James Shin)

A war is being waged in SeaTac over the minimum wage. Voters will decide Tuesday whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for some airport and hospitality workers with Proposition 1. Organizers then plan to bring the campaign to Seattle, where both mayoral candidates have already expressed support.

Supporters say it would help low-income people and families achieve a better life. That’s a bit simplistic. Poor people are not a monolithic group. I argued in a Wednesday blog post that it would devastate immigrant-owned businesses. (Our editorial board has also recommended a no vote in an editorial.)

James Shin is one of those immigrants. Shin, 64, owns the Quality Inn SeaTac. In 2011, he used his life savings to buy the 104-room hotel, and he would be required to pay his workers $15 an hour if Proposition 1 passes. It would, in fact, be a crippling financial blow to Shin.

He’s not the chief executive of a hotel chain. He owns one hotel. And he used to be poor.

Shin, a U.S. citizen, immigrated here from South Korea in 1975. He had a bachelor’s degree from a Korean university, but he spoke little English. His first job in the U.S.? Dishwasher. He made $2.25 an hour. In his next job he was a janitor. “When I moved to the U.S. I worked hard. Some people didn’t want to work weekends. I worked on weekends for overtime,” he said.

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Comments | Topics: 2013 elections, economy, minimum wage

October 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM

How a $15 minimum wage would devastate immigrant businesses

SeaTac Prop 1

Gabriel Campanario / Seattle Times

Raising the minimum wage to this level would be devastating to immigrant-owned small businesses.

On Nov. 5, SeaTac will consider whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for some airport and hospitality workers with Proposition 1. Efforts are under way to raise the same issue in Seattle. Mayor Mike McGinn, who is running for re-election, has already made it an issue in a zoning permit spat with Whole Foods in Seattle. In fact, he would like to raise it even higher in Seattle. His challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray, has also indicated support for the $15 level. (Read both sides of the debate in Tuesday’s Pro/Con on Prop. 1. Our editorial board recommends a no vote on Proposition 1 in an editorial.)

And while the current ballot issue only affects SeaTac, the next stop for the minimum-wage campaign is Seattle.

Supporters of the $15 campaign say it would help low-income people and families working in these jobs. That presumes poor people are a monolithic group, all of whom want to work those jobs for the rest of their lives.

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Comments | Topics: economy, immigration, millennials

October 22, 2013 at 7:16 AM

Is there a place for planned communities like the Issaquah Highlands?

The picture on the left illustrates best the lure of the Issaquah Highlands, a master-planned community featured in the Seattle Times Sunday. Dwellers want the retail amenities found in urban centers like Seattle but they also want to be close by trails for their mountain bikes. The Times article called it one of King County’s largest urban villages….

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Comments | Topics: economy, environment, Growth Management Act

October 8, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Increase the minimum wage or increase educational levels?

Thoughtful responses have piled up in my email inbox since my column about Proposition 1 which, if approved by City of SeaTac voters, would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for about 6,300 workers at Sea-Tac airport and nearby hotels, car-rental agencies and parking lots.

I disagree with the Nov. 5 ballot measure. There’s not much point in raising the minimum wage for thousands when the issues are wage depression for millions of workers and a yawning gap between the skills workers possess and the ones they need to have a shot at a good paying job. Going city by city – SeaTac today, Puyallup tomorrow - will result in a nationwide shift in the minimum wage by, oh, 2070.

Dean Shoemaker from Kent said: “Of course, not many have the talent and determination of a Subelbia. All I would ask is that the minimum wage stay up with inflation. Choose any decade in the last half century, any you want and track inflation and the minimum wage down to the present. Minimum wage has fallen behind which suggests that working folks have  suffered a decline in their standard of living.”

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Comments | Topics: 2013 elections, economy, Education

October 4, 2013 at 6:15 AM

Education offers more wage guarantee than SeaTac’s Prop 1

My latest column moves beyond debate about the City of SeaTac’s Proposition 1 to the low-wage jobs issue that inspired it. It is not clear whether voters will approve the Nov. 5 ballot proposal to raise minimum wage at Sea-Tac International Airport and nearby businesses to $15 an hour. The Washington Research Council opposes the measure out of concern for Washington employers…

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Comments | Topics: children, economy, Education

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