The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has long been a true partner to the region. We’ve supported and put muscle behind many key initiatives to make our region an economically vibrant place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and to access a thriving quality of life. Whether it is supporting transit expansion, a major investment in the city’s transportation infrastructure, endorsing the affordable housing plan (HALA) and its related housing levy, or getting behind school levies, the business community has been there to the tune of over $4 billion. These are sound investments and it has been the right thing to do.
It is in this context that we urge Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council to respond by showing that they are a true partner to those of us who create jobs and run businesses. Over the past few years, the City Council has implemented a significant list of new laws that affect business, from an increasing minimum wage to paid sick leave and criminal background checks. Yet, as businesses attempt to adjust to these new rules and regulations, several additional taxes and policies are under consideration, including a “head tax” on businesses that would be used in large part to fund labor union and nonprofit outreach to encourage employee complaints; restrictive scheduling laws for shift workers; mandatory paid family leave for all private-sector companies; commercial rent control; and an increase in other business taxes to fund additional police officers.
While most of these ideas come from a place of ensuring opportunity for our residents, proposals like these must be informed by a thoughtful, rational, data-driven process, and consider the collective impact on our economic competitiveness. Most importantly, business must have an equal seat at the table during these discussions. The business community is part of the solution — not the problem.
Here are some critical facts that are important to the conversation:
- Businesses have a longstanding history of stepping up and investing in what is best for the city.
- Businesses generate 50 percent of the tax revenue for the city of Seattle.
- Businesses have supported $4 billion in new local investments over the past two years.
Here are three key ways employers can get involved:
1. Make the case that new taxes on business are not necessary for a $2 million increase in labor law enforcement. As I recently said to Crosscut, “This is kind of a nickel-and-diming approach to say for an increase of a little over $2 million we need a new tax. To me, that’s not strategic.” Since 2014, the Chamber and our members have supported $4 billion in new local investments that address our region’s most pressing problems. Businesses already generate 50 percent of the tax revenue for the city of Seattle. The city is already working with a $1.1 billion general fund budget, and the investments we supported have relieved pressure on that budget. The general fund should be the first stop for addressing fundamental responsibilities of the city.
2. Advocate for a fair share of funding for educating employers on Seattle’s labor laws. Employers in Seattle are navigating four labor laws, and data show that they want to comply. Employers have made 75 percent of the inquiries recorded by the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) since the city’s four labor standards laws have been implemented. Despite that, less than 25 percent of the available grant funding is for educating employers. While the funding to educate employees was provided several months ago, and employees have the knowledge and legal advocates they need, funding to help employers is still months away from being issued. This doesn’t make sense, and it keeps employers from getting the outreach they need to know the rules. Currently, it takes an average of 192 days to resolve an investigation. Making sure employers have the information they need to comply up front will save OLS time and resources, and help workers get their compensation and benefits from the start. Send an email to Mayor Murray and your Seattle City Council members and share why a 50/50 split is a better solution.
3. Share your insights on shift worker scheduling. The Seattle City Council has started exploring legislation that would restrict how employers schedule their shift workers. We are closely monitoring the process, and have consistently shared the message that Seattle must proceed thoughtfully. Scheduling is highly complex and a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach will create more problems for employees. Furthermore, many businesses already have processes in place to directly meet the expectations of their employees.
Our business community is incredibly committed to doing our part to build an economically vibrant and globally competitive Seattle region where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and to access a thriving quality of life. We urge Mayor Murray and the Seattle City Council to work with us on a thoughtful path forward.
MAUD DAUDON is president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.