Workers and Wages Full Proposals

Trench.jpgCommunity Wellness – Quality of Life

It is the role of city government to serve the economic and social needs of its residents. With a quality of life focus, government helps form the glue of our community. Local investments in education, arts, parks, trails and preservation attract talented people.  Jobs and business investment come to desirable cities — cities that captivate creative and capable people.

By focusing on the quality of life in Olympia, we will improve the overall wellness of our workers, the economy, and our community.

Great infrastructure and our beautiful natural setting are important quality of life assets that make us stronger.  Our community has important heritage and arts resources that define who we are. We are defined by the character and values of our people. All these attributes create our identity, bolster our quality of life, and fuel our economy.

To keep our city strong, we must continue to invest in our people and our quality of life.  We must grow good, living wage jobs. We must encourage our residents to stay and be a part of this great community and we must attract new talent. Olympia must keep our economic engine strong.  We must assure that our workforce is ready and able to be a part of a successful economy.

This policy statement focuses on Olympia’s workers and the way that our quality of life is connected to workplace factors. For most Olympians, employment is a central part of every day. Our relationship with our job affects our overall sense of wellbeing. Just as other community factors need to reflect our values, we also must assure that all workers are afforded fair and respectful conditions.

Predictive Scheduling Adds Productivity

Seventeen percent of US workers have a work schedule that is based on their employer’s changing needs. Retail, hospitality, and food service workers often face highly variable work schedules, with shifts that run outside of typical daytime hours.  

These volatile schedules are strongly associated with household financial stress, as workers cannot predict regular earnings, have trouble finding childcare, struggle to schedule appointments, and cannot commit to another part-time job because there’s no planned schedule.

Hourly workers need to know their schedules ahead of time so they can coordinate between jobs and find stability.

I am calling upon the Washington State Legislature to take action during the 2020 legislative session to implement predictive scheduling rules for employers in the retail, hospitality, and food services industries that have at least 500 employees worldwide.

Under my proposal:

  1. Employers provide every new employee a good faith estimate of their work schedule
  2. Employers regularly provide employees with a work schedule 7-days in advance
  3. Employers must allow a 10-hour break between assigned shifts, unless the employee agrees and the worker is paid a premium
  4. Workers would receive a payment for changes to a written work schedule unless there is a 7-day advance notice.

These provisions recognize the shared benefits of scheduling that respects employees’ need for predictability and stability in working conditions.  Similar work rules are in place in Oregon, California, New York City and Seattle, and they are working. With predictive scheduling, employees know what to expect and turnover rates drop, benefiting both businesses and workers.

If the Legislature fails to adopt this in 2020, I pledge to work with our local jurisdictions to implement this regionally.  While it is better to act statewide, it is necessary to act regardless.

A Living Wage for all Workers

Washington and California have the highest minimum wage rates in the country — $12 an hour. Sadly, our cost of living has increased so much that a true living wage for Olympia is about  $25 an hour.

We need to close this wage gap. Paying a fair wage demonstrates that we value honest pay for honest work. Increasing the minimum wage will fuel the economy because low-wage households will spend their earnings locally. When families make a decent wage, it saves tax dollars because fair pay reduces dependence on government subsidies.

Addressing this issue requires collaboration between government, labor and business.  Thoughtful and measured action will avoid unintended consequences. We must boost the earnings of low-wage workers in a meaningful way and increase the economic vitality of Olympia by creating greater spending power – and we must do this without harming our employers or losing jobs.

I propose to create an Olympia Livable Income Advisory Committee to deliver an action plan for increasing the minimum wage in Olympia. The Committee will collect and research pertinent data to advise the Mayor and City Council on how best to adjust minimum compensation levels for low-wage workers. The Committee is directed to develop these recommendations while taking into account the existing conditions facing employers and workers, such as changing state employment rules, and while ensuring that Olympia businesses continue to thrive. The committee would include broad and diverse perspectives, such as local businesses, unions, and the Chamber of Commerce.

Sea-Tac, Seattle, and Tacoma have established local wage standards.  The consensus analysis of these efforts is that low-wage workers saw gains in their income while remaining in their jobs longer.  For employers, analysts have found varied results.  While retail prices were generally not affected, childcare services saw increased costs passed on to customers.  Perhaps most significant is the finding that wage increases can affect more than just payroll and may shape a business’s organizational structure and service delivery methods. Before 2012, only five US localities had minimum wage laws; currently, 44 counties and cities do.  These examples will provide more opportunity for analysis and good decision-making.

Low-wage employment in Thurston County is most often found in food service, lodging, and retail sales.  These industries frequently provide less-than-full-time employment. In 2017, the average food service worker was paid about $18,200 a year. The average retail worker was paid $31,199.  These figures compare with an average median earning for Olympia residents of $56,672.  These workers, these jobs, and these industries are essential within our local economy, and we need to find ways to support them.

In May of this year, the Federal Reserve reported that many US adults are financially vulnerable. One quarter of adults have no retirement savings and skipped necessary medical care in 2018 because they were unable to afford the cost. The findings showed 27% would need to borrow or sell something to pay for an unexpected expense of $400.

Data from 2014 show that more than 51% of renters in Thurston County are cost-burdened. This means that housing costs exceed 30 percent of monthly gross income, causing households to struggle to pay for other basic needs.

As the State of Washington continues to make adjustments to wages and working conditions it has caused uncertainty for Olympia’s employers. Employers are responding to a series of new financial requirements, including state-wide minimum wage increases, mandatory sick leave, and paid family leave.  These changes began in 2018 and will be fully implemented in January 2020 when the wage floor will rise to $13.50 an hour. Olympia’s approach must be measured and reasonable, while steadfast in addressing the needs of hardworking Olympians who deserve decent wages and employment benefits.

Education and Job Training

No student should finish trade school or job training with debt.  From 2011-2015, the amount of student loan debt associated with college attendance rose by 39%, reaching $1.3 trillion.  That debt is a drag on households and the community — keeping people from buying homes, investing in new businesses, or filling basic needs.  

Our community college and trade schools must continue to respond to job market opportunities and our students should be debt free. Preparing future generations for the job market is fundamental to our city’s economy. Families who have the capacity to finance a student’s education are expected to cover these costs.  When the cost of attendance exceeds reasonable family contributions, financial aid should be available.

Our task is to match students with training that delivers marketable employees, grows jobs, and improves personal income.  Olympia has a strong network of opportunities for training, retraining, and apprenticeships. I will convene the Economic Development Council, Chambers of Commerce, the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, labor and other resources to identify the many paths Olympians can take to get the training they need for success, debt free.


Policy Statement #3 – June 18, 2019