SeaTac Wage Fight: Fairer Pay Or Fewer Jobs?

Oct 29, 2013

Washington state has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $9.19 an hour. If voters in the City of SeaTac approve Proposition 1 next Tuesday, the city would boast the highest minimum wage in the country.

Opponents of the proposition say that although the purpose of the proposition is to provide higher-paying jobs, its real consequence would be fewer jobs and more competition from workers from nearby cities.

Bob Donegan, president of Ivar’s Restaurant, said that the proposition “will cause the elimination of jobs of the people who can least afford to be laid off.”

Donegan said he’s not sure what the cost would be for his restaurant, but he expects that many businesses at the airport would be hit.

Roxan Seibel, a sales associate in the Sea-Tac Airport concourse, disagreed: “I don’t believe that at all. They’ve got a built-in customer base here in this airport.”

Those in favor of Proposition 1 tend to be workers like Seibel: working multiple jobs and struggling to provide for families.

Seibel has seen the continual growth and expansion of the airport and wants that to translate to the workers. “I think with the profits that are brought into this airport some it can be given back to the employees that actually bring it in,” she said.

After working 30 years at Sea-Tac, Seibel makes $13.95 an hour. She does not earn sick pay.

Donegan said his employees start a few dollars over the minimum wage with the possibility of advancement, raises and health benefits. But he said an increase would kick the rung out for teenagers, immigrants and unskilled workers, who don’t have much work experience, noting that it’s tough to hire someone for an entry level job at that higher rate.

But Seibel, the sales associate, said it’s about more than a pay increase.

“Everyone keeps saying these are entry-level jobs, but let me tell you with what is expected of us, it’s fair,” Seibel said. “As far as trying to raise a family here on minimum wage, it’s a no-go.”

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.