UPDATE, 8:15 p.m.: A SeaTac ballot measure to create a $15-an-hour minimum wage for airport-related workers took a narrow lead in initial results Tuesday.
With 3,283 votes counted, SeaTac Proposition 1 led 54 percent to 46 percent — a difference of only 261 votes in a city with 12,100 registered voters.
At a campaign event in SeaTac, supporters were optimistic that uncounted votes would go their way.
“This means that the people who put fuel in jets may actually be able to buy a ticket on one,” said David Rolf, a vice president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
But Proposition 1 opponents said the race was too close to call.
Washington’s mail-in voting system means ballots will continue to arrive after Tuesday, and the outcome might not be known until Friday, said Scott Ostrander, general manager of Cedarbrook Lodge in SeaTac.
“It’s a really small margin,” said Ostrander, co-chair of a business-backed political committee opposed to Proposition 1. “We’re estimating there’s probably 6,500 to 6,800 ballots out there, and we’ve only probably seen about 50 percent.”
ORIGINAL POST: SeaTac voters today will decide whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for hospitality and transportation workers in and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. That rate represents a 63 percent increase from Washington’s hourly minimum rate of $9.19, which will rise on Jan. 1 to $9.32, the highest of any state.
Proposition 1 also calls for annual increases tied to inflation, paid sick leave and tip protection. It would require employers to offer part-time workers more hours before hiring additional part-timers and to keep employees for at least three months after an ownership change.
The ballot measure would take effect Jan. 1, covering roughly 6,300 workers at 72 airport-related businesses in SeaTac, including hotels, car-rental companies and parking lots.
Supporters of Prop. 1 say it would lift minimum-wage workers out of poverty, give them more money to spend at local businesses and boost the economy. Opponents say it would force businesses to raise prices and cut staff, and would leave taxpayers footing the bill for enforcement costs.
Prop. 1 is part of a broader national debate about rising income inequality and government’s role in improving workers’ wages. It also reflects a desire by organized labor to reinvent itself and reverse a decades-long decline in union membership: Prop. 1 is supported by labor groups, and includes a waiver for employers with union contracts.