George Allen, the Chamber’s senior vice president of government relations, co-presented the recommendations of the Labor Standards Advisory Group (LSAG) to the Seattle City Council on Monday (video, segment on LSAG begins at 107:21). The LSAG is a stakeholder group convened by Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council earlier this year to guide the City on how it can better coordinate and implement the four employment-related laws it has passed since 2011.
The Chamber participated in this process as part of its commitment to ensuring that the business community has a voice in the implementation of Seattle’s labor standards laws, including the minimum wage ordinance. Taking part in processes like the LSAG is critical to ensuring that outreach and enforcement around these laws take practical considerations for employers into account, and that implementation minimizes negative impacts on Seattle’s economic competitiveness.
Allen and his co-presenter, Rebecca Smith of the National Employment Law Project, represented the two main caucuses in the stakeholder group. Each presented two of the four recommendation, which were:
- Establish a single, centralized entity (agency, sub-agency, division, office or department) within the City of Seattle to house, implement and coordinate all compliance, education, outreach, and enforcement functions for the minimum wage, paid sick and safe time, criminal wage theft to the extent allowed by law and job assistance ordinances.
Establish a comprehensive education and outreach structure that enables employers and employees to understand their roles, responsibilities and rights under labor standards ordinances. Ensure outreach and education is tailored to employers and employees and that all outreach and education consistently demonstrates and models cultural competency.
Establish partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and education regarding City wage and labor laws and standards. Have organizations tailor their work to specific audiences and demographic groups.
Strong and effective enforcement is critical in order to achieve maximum compliance with labor standards laws. It complements strong and effective education and outreach. Focus investigations and penalties on those who are habitual or egregious violators, and where violations are systemic.
Throughout the process, Allen worked closely with fellow group members from employer groups, including representatives from the Greater Seattle Business Association, the Seattle Restaurant Association, Archbright, and the Manufacturing Industrial Council.
While initial goals for the group were wide-ranging and often concerning to employers, the employer representatives successfully negotiated agreement among the group that the City will primarily focus on education and outreach during the first year that the Minimum Wage Ordinance is in effect, as opposed to a more immediate fine-based approach This result is consistent with the City’s own data on Paid Sick and Safe Time implementation, which indicates that if an employer is found to be out of compliance, they almost always make corrective actions once the City makes them aware of what they need to do.
Employer representatives also advocated strongly for culturally competent outreach to all businesses and workers, which became a key component of the recommendations made for outreach and education strategy and a system based on complaints as opposed to one that includes audits of employers based on their industry.
For more information about the Chamber’s engagement on labor standards laws, please contact George Allen.