Moving Forward Together to Address Seattle’s Homelessness Crisis

I’ve been asked recently, by reporters, stakeholders and individuals why I’m participating in the call for a measure on homelessness to address the issue in Seattle. Let me be super clear – people are dying on the streets of Seattle. Our homeless crisis is dangerous and not improving fast enough. That’s why I’ve joined Mayor Ed Murray and many other political and civic leaders in working to craft a bold proposal for the August ballot to urgently address our city’s homelessness emergency.

Mayor Murray’s administration and my team have come together in pursuit of this shared goal. I am proud of this partnership, and honored to be appointed by the Mayor to co-chair his advisory committee.

Seattleites agree—this is a time for bold action, a time to save lives and protect public health and safety. Mayor Murray has been taking action to address the crisis and talking publicly for months about the potential need to go to the ballot to get the resources we need to fill the gaps in our fragmented homelessness services system, and we here at Civic Ventures saw this as a perfect opportunity to apply our unique ability to work outside the normal “Seattle Process” to help catalyze change.

But of course when you try to shake up established systems, some defenders of the status quo will get offended. The Seattle Times this week published a story that questioned my motives and obfuscated what has been, to date, a streamlined and drama-free process. The story ignored Mayor Murray’s calls for action and implied that I had forced him into committing to an August ballot measure on homelessness. That is plainly and simply not the case.

But let’s focus on what actually matters:  The need to quickly and effectively move people off the streets and into permanent housing is too urgent to be distracted by politics as usual.

I cannot tell you how honored and excited I am to be standing with Mayor Murray in leading this critical effort, and I invite anyone who shares our passion and focus to join our campaign—we will need volunteers and grassroots donors and door knockers and phone callers to make this campaign a success.  But to make progress on this issue we need to recognize that it is larger than any of us, and humbly set to work.

That’s my commitment, and I know our allies—good people in City Hall, the stakeholder advisory committee assembling this package, and service providers who address the humanitarian crisis on our streets every day— feel the same way.  Let’s not lose focus on what matters.  For the sake of the homeless people on our streets, let’s make sure we continue to put people before politics.

The Democratic Party Needs a Change in Messaging

Earlier this year, Harvard professor Michael Sandel spoke at the World Economic Forum. I happened to stumble upon his interview this weekend, and ever since watching it I’ve not been able to get it out of my head. During the Q&A, Sandel was asked to give advice to the flailing Democratic Party, which to his mind, has become far too technocratic in their political messaging.

Although the interviewer pressed him to provide bumper sticker policies like “Make America Great Again”, Sandel shrugged off this fascination with abbreviation. “Philosophers are not good at snappy slogans,” he admitted to the audience and then proceeded to show what good philosophers actually do: speak at length. During this fifteen minute back and forth, he presented four political themes which Democrats need to reassess in order to win again.

The first theme he addressed was a need for promoting a sense of national community that was directed towards “a shared common life, restoring public places, public institutions, and class mixing.” Sandel thought Democrats all too often revert to speaking only to urban, elite communities. To take away the conservative movement’s control and manipulation of patriotism, Democrats must develop their inclusive narrative in a way that leads to solidarity, not in a frame designed to end conversations, such as one which frames one side as “progressives” and the other side as deplorable “racists”.

The second theme is one we here at Civic Skunk Works spend a lot of time fretting over: the meaning and dignity of work. “Work is a way of making a living, of generating an income,” Sandel stated, “but is that its only purpose? Or does it confer meaning and identity?” We would argue (and so does Sandel) that Democrats should never, ever think of work as solely an economic concern. We know that “since many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, work is a major source of dignity in our lives.” To give the average American worker a sense of self-worth again, Democrats must engender a sense of “recognition and trust, as well as autonomy and self-mastery.”

Thankfully, liberals promote policies that can restore these feelings to the American public. A higher minimum wage and an increased overtime pay threshold strike me as perfect examples of recognizing the importance of all work, while new labor contracts like the Shared Security system would give economic benefits, stability and security to all. That is an effective one-two punch that Democrats should deliver over and over again.

The third theme Sandel elucidated was getting rid of our society’s obsession with meritocracy. “Meritocracy is not an alternative to inequality,” he told the audience, “it is a justification for a certain kind of inequality.” I’m so pleased that he highlighted this, as Americans all too often fall for this myth. A couple of months ago, in fact, I reviewed Thomas Friedman’s latest bookand my biggest criticism came from his faith in hard work and perseverance. I wrote:

Friedman subscribes (a little bit too much) to the myth that life is a meritocracy, where the most adaptable and hard-working win out. In fact, last week when I heard him speak at Seattle Town Hall he remarked, “sometimes no one is to blame but yourself.”

Sandel seems to agree in some ways with my argument. With his finger wagging, he pointed out that Democrats “should shift their emphasis from talking about mobility and perfecting individual opportunity, and instead talk more about solidarity and community and what that means.”

Finally, Sandel’s fourth theme was in relation to inequality and mobility. And in many ways, this connects with his meritocracy theme. He believed that the left needed to think less about mobility and speak about “creating a more equal society where the focus is not on the scramble to the top.” It’s not just economic inequality that Democrats should highlight either. Sandel argued that we need to show how economic inequality is corrosive to our civic life and our public institutions. Unfortunately, he never really developed upon that statement or provided instruction on how to effectively communicate these tensions, which made this theme come off as quite vague.

Nonetheless, I was extremely impressed with his messaging guidance. These broad themes are probably not specific enough (and a little bit too philosophically vague) for today’s focus-grouped Democratic Party. However, if leaders within the DNC listened to Sandel’s prescriptions, the left could offer a much more convincing socio-economic argument to Americans in urban and rural areas.

It’s Time for (Civic) Action

Since we founded Civic Ventures in 2015, lots of people have enjoyed our writings and podcasts. We’ve attracted a loyal audience that’s interested in furthering a progressive, policy-focused agenda. Many of you have gotten in touch over the last two years and asked us how you can help, what you can do with all this newfound knowledge. Sometimes we’d ask you to publicly support secure scheduling, say, or to help debunk some trickle-downers’ bullshit excuse for why the minimum wage should be eliminated. But we were largely happy to spend our time thinking deeply about policy and working behind the scenes to enact change.

Obviously, the election of Donald Trump has changed everything. We can’t just organize and obsess over the future of policy anymore. You know it as well as we do; this isn’t a time to just sit back and read, or to listen to a podcast. The age of passivity ended on November 8th, 2016. People still want to inform themselves, but they also want to take action. You can’t choose one; you have to do both.

Qq1jjVMhThat’s why we’re proud to announce the debut of Civic Action, a new results-oriented partner organization of Civic Ventures. Civic Action is outward-facing and, as the name indicates, action-oriented. If you’re looking for public officials to call, or causes to take up, or information about where to best focus your energy, you’ll want to sign up for our email blasts, or follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

For the first few months, we’re going to be figuring out how to make Civic Action the most effective, efficient organizing tool that it can be, but we know what we want it to do. We want to direct people to causes where they can make a substantial difference. We hope to make a big difference in elections by highlighting good work and supporting stellar candidates. We want to continue our efforts to educate people on how the economy really works.

And we want to continue the discussion about what America can be. Resistance is not enough; you also need to rebuild. We have to provide an alternative vision, spotlight the people who are doing positive work, and plan how to recommit to the American Dream for generations to come.

These are confusing times. A person could spend all day every day calling representatives and signing petitions and sharing links. We expect Civic Action to be a signal in the midst of all this noise, a way to direct your energy and make a difference in the world. I hope you’ll follow Civic Action (email, Twitter, Facebook) and let me know what you think.

The Free Market Knows How to Save Lives from Distracted Drivers. It Just Chooses Not to Act.


I want to make sure you didn’t miss Matt Richtel’s stunning New York Times story in the media juggernaut’s run-up to the debate. It’s about texting and distracted driving, and the first paragraph is horrifying:

The court filings paint a grisly picture: As Ashley Kubiak sped down a Texas highway in her Dodge Ram truck, she checked her iPhone for messages. Distracted, she crashed into a sport utility vehicle, killing its driver and a passenger and leaving a child paralyzed.

Richtel continues, “With driving fatalities rising at levels not seen in 50 years, the growing incidence of distracted driving is getting part of the blame.” In his report, AT&T admits that texting while driving “has addictive qualities, meaning drivers cannot help themselves.” As any pedestrian commuter in a major American city can tell you, the driving-while-distracted epidemic is out of hand. Spend more than five minutes a day on city sidewalks and you’ll soon have a story about nearly being killed in a crosswalk by a driver who was senselessly taking a corner while staring at his iPhone.

This is a problem that is not going away, and the free market will not solve it. In fact, the free market has already devised a solution. Richtel explains that Apple has already patented software which would identify when a phone user is driving and disable text messaging and other apps that ping drivers, who often can’t bring themselves to resist an alert sound. They’ve had this software for years. But they haven’t released it to the public. Why? Well, as road safety consultant David Teater says:

“If you’re at Apple or you’re at Samsung, do you want to be the first to block texting and driving?” he said. “A customer might say, ‘If Apple does it, then my next phone is a Samsung.’”

This is the free market at work.

But of course the libertarians over at Reason.com are doing whatever they do when the free market fails to solve a problem: try to convince their readers there’s no problem at all. In a post titled “New Round of Fearmongering Over Texting and Driving” from earlier this month, Ed Krayewski argues with the sentiment that more people are dying. Krayewski points out that traffic deaths have declined since 1985. While he allows that “technological advancements…have made cars safer to drive” in the intervening 30 years, he concludes that “the numbers don’t support the idea that smartphones are contributing to a rise in traffic fatalities, nor the contention that catching so-called distracted drivers ought to be a high law enforcement priority.”

I wonder what Krayewski would consider to be a priority. Mahita Gajanan at Time noted back in August that…

…A new report from the National Safety Council, a nonprofit group devoted to using research and data to prevent deaths, found that fatalities from traffic incidents were 9% higher through the first six months of 2016 than during the same time period last year.

And Angie Schmidt wrote for Streetsblog USA that traffic fatalities “hit a seven-year high in 2015.” And while every method of transportation saw fatality increases in 2014, pedestrians and bicyclists saw the largest rise, according to this graph from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:



Now, of course we can’t attribute all of these fatalities to distracted driving, but it seems likely that distracted driving is responsible for some of them. Most of the year-to-year conditions—traffic laws, the technological advancements that Karayewski cites in his post—tend to lean toward fewer or similar results. There is no way to definitively prove a connection between distracted driving and the increases in fatalities two years ago with the data available now, but smartphone adoption has increased dramatically over the last four years. If I were investigating the rise in traffic fatalities, distracted driving would certainly be an issue I would want to examine.

But that’s not even my point. When you get into a pedantic argument with libertarians about statistics, you’ve already lost. At issue is the whole libertarian philosophy, which, as always, is predictably glib and doesn’t stand up to any sort of serious philosophical investigation. How many fatalities would Krayewski and his libertarian crowd consider to be too many? How many people would have to die before the free market finally steps in and corrects the situation?

The goal should always be zero fatalities, even as we keep in mind that accidents, realistically, can and will happen. (There is an organization devoted to the idea of zero traffic fatalities, and they do excellent work.) The whole concept of a functioning society is that it operates with the public good in mind; the moment when governments decide to willfully abandon citizens to die is the moment when you see the social contract begin to break down. Yes, people die. No, we don’t always get it right. But to give up trying? That’s downright monstrous.

Let’s be clear that I don’t love every regulation. To point out a recent example, this new California law about collectible autographs, for example, was undoubtedly created with good intentions in mind—an attempt to curb forgery—but it seems to create unintended consequences that would hurt small businesses like bookstores, collectors, and antiques dealers. But to look at a clear and obvious public health risk like distracted driving and then to use it as an example of why the market should be allowed to run free strikes me as dangerous and poorly considered. It’s obvious that the free market isn’t going to save the lives of pedestrians from distracted drivers; the businesses in question have a solution to the problem and they just choose not to employ it. Moments like this one are when the government should intercede on behalf of the public good.


The Seattle Times Editorial Board Gets Everything Wrong on Secure Scheduling

The Seattle Times: protecting our beloved sloughs from the menace of popular public transit since 1891.

The Seattle Times: protecting our beloved sloughs from the menace of popular public transit since 1891.

On Monday at 2 pm, the City Council will finally vote on secure scheduling. A majority of the council has already voted the bill out of committee, so the legislation is expected to become law. This is great news for workers in Seattle, who will finally enjoy predictable scheduling, allowing them to balance their work and personal lives. It will enable them to plan doctor’s appointments, family time, school schedules, and all the other everyday activities that so many Seattle office workers take for granted.

Secure scheduling makes sense from a business perspective, too: this law will allow these workers to reinvest themselves in their communities as consumers who can plan their finances more than five days in advance. We’ve already agreed in Seattle that when restaurant workers have more money, that’s good for restaurants. Secure scheduling is a continuation of that idea; it ensures that restaurant workers have the time (and the sense of financial stability) to spend their money in restaurants. It’s just good sense.

So, naturally, the Seattle Times Editorial Board fucking hates it. They published an editorial this morning titled “Seattle’s scheduling rule is counter to our innovative business culture,” and it’s so packed with bullshit that I have no recourse but to fisk the thing—go through line by line to unspool all the lies and misdirections stuffed inside. Ready? Here we go, from the very beginning:

Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council are moving at breakneck speed, for them, on new legislation this month.

This push for legislation started back in February, so it’s not exactly the 2 Fast 2 Furious frenetic road race that the Times is disingenuously depicting here. There have been plenty of committee meetings where citizens on both sides of the issue have spoken out, there have been community events, there have been many opportunities for everyone to comment.

 Not to finish police reform or fix infrastructure overwhelmed by growth and traffic.

Such a lazy attempt at misdirection. You want city leaders to be able to handle a variety of issues at the same time. That’s literally why we have a government: we don’t want leaders to just run around trying to put out whatever fire is supposedly burning the hottest at any given moment, we want them to make the city livable on a variety of levels.

 No, the legislation flying through City Hall this month will instead dictate scheduling policies at a narrow slice of companies operating within city limits.

Note the “flying”—you could conceive and give birth to a child in the amount of time it’s taken this legislation to come to a full vote—and the “dictate,” here, both of which are highly misleading. There’s a difference between regulations and dictatorial demands. Does government “dictate” that five-year-olds can’t work in factories?

And this is the first instance of a weird dichotomy in the piece: first the Board complains about the law, and then they complain that it only affects a small number—or, in this case, a “narrow slice”—of employers. Which is it? Do you hate the law, or do you want it to apply to small businesses?

In this case, secure scheduling only affects food service or retail businesses that employ over 500 workers worldwide, or sit-down restaurants with over 40 locations worldwide. It’s basically the same structure as our minimum wage adoption schedule: big chains with CEOs who make tens of millions of dollars a year are held to a higher standard. And it makes sense to take the same tack with secure scheduling: these chain stores already have the sophisticated scheduling technology to easily handle a few additional scheduling requests.

 Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council are emulating San Francisco, which passed the nation’s first “secure scheduling” legislation in 2014. They presented a Seattle version on Aug. 9, hustled it through committees and expect to finalize the rules on Monday.

“Hustled.” You’d think this legislation broke land speed records. There’s nothing unusual about the process secure scheduling has taken; would the Board prefer a city where no law ever passed? Is the Seattle Times a huge fan of the dreaded Seattle Process?

 The rules require companies to provide at least 14 days notice of work schedules, offer existing employees additional hours when they become available and pay extra when schedules change.

One of the few true sentence in the whole piece. They don’t mention, of course, that the “extra” pay is a single hours’ wages, and they also don’t mention the part of the law that affects “clopening” shifts, which require employees to work late at night and then turn around and come back early in the morning. Probably they don’t include that bit because everybody thinks clopening is a terrible thing to do to an employee. Clopening is so unpopular that Starbucks itself announced that they were abolishing it chainwide it a few years ago. They still do it, though, which is a great example of why we can’t trust these companies to self-police.

 Before rushing this through, Seattle officials should consider the long-term effect of these rules and their other efforts to micromanage business operations at the behest of national labor organizations.

“Rushing.” The Board really broke out the thesaurus for this one. It should be mentioned that the Board also complained about Seattle rushing into the $15 minimum wage, and into expanding transit. Basically, any legislation they dislike moves too fast for them.

The terrific thing about the political process is that it does take in all sides, and business interests have had plenty of input in the secure scheduling law. Just this week, the City Council adopted several amendments which address problems that large corporations had with the day-to-day realities of the secure scheduling law, making it easier for them to comply. The city isn’t dictating employee schedules, it’s not micromanaging anyone’s operations. It’s setting standards for businesses, the same way they establish health and food safety standards and, uh, a minimum wage.

 Seattle’s current success is due in large part because the city’s been an incubator of disruptive retail companies that are now household names.

And when those disruptive retail companies were very small, the secure scheduling laws would not apply to them. What’s your point?

 As companies such as Starbucks, Costco and Nordstrom extended their brands far and wide, they also projected Seattle values — including service and benefits that raised the bar in their markets.

The “benefits” in that sentence is important because it accidentally highlights something the Times is gently avoiding here: Those businesses succeed, in part, because they demonstrate the Seattle value of being great places to work. Costco is famous for its great employee retention numbers. I talked with Starbucks employees who fought for secure scheduling, and they all told me that they love their jobs and their coworkers—they just needed more security in their scheduling so they could balance their jobs and their lives.  Secure scheduling instantiates those Seattle values into law, because we know that the economy requires everyone’s participation to succeed. Without food service employees who make decent money and have the time to spend it, the economy suffers.

 Seattle must fiercely protect its reputation as a place of business innovation and agility. That provides far more jobs and opportunity than being a sandbox for special interests’ regulatory experimentation.

Seattle, in case the Board missed reading it in their own paper, is not hurting for jobs. The $15 minimum wage has not killed the economy as the Board repeatedly threatened; in fact, it’s strengthened it.

It’s a question of balance — providing the flexibility and level playing field businesses require while protecting workers from unreasonable practices.

That’s almost exactly what supporters of shared security have been saying since the beginning. More than halfway through the piece, the Board still hasn’t made the case that shared security hurts business—they’ve just thrown around some scary insinuations.

 Some companies have used new scheduling technology in ways that cause such erratic schedules, making it untenable for those at the first tier of the retail workforce. Starbucks, notably, was shamed by press coverage into improving its scheduling policies in 2014.

And again, Starbucks failed to improve its scheduling policies. And so here we are.

But Seattle officials’ response is questionable. The proposed rules single out particular companies, applying burdensome regulations to some but not others. They won’t benefit the majority of retail workers in the city, who mostly work at small- to mid-size companies.

Again, secure scheduling follows roughly the same standards established by the $15 minimum wage rollout, which is working just fine. Large retailers like Starbucks and Target already utilize scheduling software that enables them to plan their schedules months in advance; this will not be an undue burden on them. The legislation has language that requires the city to reinvestigate secure scheduling two years from now, with studies to examine its effects. Presumably at that point, the employer size regulations will be reinvestigated. This is how good policy works.

Only affected are national retailers, coffee chains and restaurants with at least 500 employees and 40 or more establishments globally.


Retailers in general are struggling to compete with Amazon.com, yet it’s mostly exempted. The rule only affects Amazon workers in physical stores, which so far are limited to roughly 15 employed at University Village.

This is such an obvious concern-troll misdirection; do you honestly suppose that the Seattle Times would be in favor of a law demanding that Amazon’s programmers enjoy the same protections that the current legislation stipulates? Why bring Amazon into it? While it’s true that Amazon is a retailer, most of the people it employs in Seattle are not directly involved in the service industry. And besides, if Amazon’s current expansion plans follow through, they will likely be required to follow the current secure scheduling guidelines soon enough.

Unionized retailers are excluded from the layers of new regulation and potential penalties, even if their contracts provide fewer worker protections than stipulated.

Union workers are better-paid than their non-union counterparts. They enjoy better benefits than non-union workers. Union workers are much more likely to be full participants in the economy, which is the goal of this legislation.

The rules are so complex and difficult for companies to follow without incurring penalties. The path of least resistance becomes unionization.

This is ludicrous. The law is not complex and difficult to follow. Believe me; speaking as someone who has had to sit through a number of anti-union training videos for at various shitty retail jobs, no huge retail corporation would prefer unionization to entering a few additional restrictions into its scheduling software.

This legislation is not onerous. It is not complex. It’s easy to imagine the Board saying the same thing about food safety laws, if the City Council were passing a hand-washing ordinance today: “Does the city honestly expect employers to stand in the bathroom with employees and supervise them as they wash their hands? This confusing job-killing legislation will cause restaurants across the city to shut down.”

 That raises a question about the legislation’s intent and primary beneficiaries: Is it more about improving conditions for workers or encouraging unionization of large companies?

Wow. So now it’s all part of a conspiracy to unionize Starbucks? Again, this isn’t going to happen. If there’s one thing big retail chains hate more than paying their employees, it’s unionization. This is the same kind of scare tactic the Board employed in 2013, when it warned that raising the minimum wage in SeaTac could kill the hotel industry near the airport. (And besides, given that union employees make more money, enjoy more benefits, and are generally treated more humanely than the average work-for-hire employee, I wouldn’t be that opposed to this scary fictional outcome that the Board is waving around.)

Seattle voters should ask their elected officials who they are truly representing here and what they’re doing to nurture the city’s business climate.

Respectfully, I’d argue that Seattle Times readers should ask the paper’s editorial board who they’re truly representing with this article and what they would define as a healthy business climate for Seattle. Because the Board has been on the wrong side of just about every good legislation we’ve seen in the last few years, from raising the minimum wage to supporting public transit. Increasingly, the Seattle that the Editorial Board promotes looks nothing like the Seattle that I see when I walk down the street every day. Why do they waste valuable space in the paper promoting the trickle-down interests of the one percent when it’s clear that Seattle is choosing a different path?

Donald Trump’s New Economic Agenda: More Food Poisoning, More Government Subsidies of Low-Wage Employers


Donald Trump unveiled a new economic agenda today, marking his third attempt at a tax plan in less than a year. But this was more than just taxes—it’s an “agenda” that aspires to serve a bunch of conservative masters while never once aspiring to coherence.

It must be said, though, that Trump’s conservative masters are pretty happy with the plan. The Wall Street Journal has gone gaga over it, running an editorial from Michael Saltsman titled “Don’t Raise the Minimum Wage: Trump Has a Better Plan.” That better plan? It’s to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, which basically would pay out based on how much or how little a taxpayer earns. According to Saltsman, this is a pro-business idea. Which is true, but artificially so. By not raising the minimum wage and offering a higher EITC in its place, government is basically subsidizing low-income employers. (Nick Hanauer wrote about this at length back in May.) So much for small government. So much for the free market.

Anyway, as I just told you yesterday, proponents of trickle down economics employ three major tactics to ensure that the top one percent benefits from inequality:

1. Tax cuts for the rich.

2. Deregulation for the powerful.

3. Wage suppression for everyone else.

You’ll see these three tactics throughout Trump’s economic agenda. Especially the deregulation bit. Here’s the part of the plan that’s getting the most attention right now:

Specific regulations to be eliminated include: …The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food. The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures, and even what animals may roam which fields and when. It also greatly increased inspections of food “facilities,” and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill.

Yeah, you read that right. Donald Trump wants to save government money by cutting the regulations that keep our food safe to eat. If you’ve listened to the interview with food safety super-lawyer Bill Marler in our podcast on paid sick leave, you know that this is a terrible idea. Even with the regulatory framework that we already enjoy, there have been way too many produce-based salmonella and listeria outbreaks in the last few years.

The other regulations Trump wants to cut involve environmental protections and regulations on the energy industry, which would likely mean more fracking, less safety in our oil extraction methods, and more environmental mayhem. Combine that with artificially low wages supported by government and a tax plan that benefits the super-rich Trump family with an end to the estate tax and a dramatic lowering of corporate tax rates and you’ve got a plan to turn America into a theme park: Trickle Down Land, where the one percent thrives in luxury and everyone else has to fend for themselves.

Tomorrow Morning, Speak Out for Secure Scheduling at City Hall


Over the summer, a Seattle City Council committee has gradually moved toward approving secure scheduling laws that will make it easier for workers to plan their lives around their jobs. City Councilmembers Lorena González and Lisa Herbold have met with workers, business owners, and other interested parties over the last half-year, and they’re finally ready to bring secure scheduling to the whole council for a vote.

As the proposed law is written now, workers at large retail and food service establishments would earn predictability pay when employers ask them to go home early, they would be guaranteed ten hours of rest between shifts, and they would get an opportunity to pick up open hours before the employer hired new workers. This would enable part-time workers to make doctors’ appointments, plan time with their families, and even allow them to go back to school—all things that the current scheduling status quo makes difficult or even impossible for many workers. (Listen to our Other Washington podcast for more information about secure scheduling.) Seattle made an important choice when we raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour; now we have to make sure these workers have the time to spend that money, and the security to invest in their futures.

Tomorrow morning, the committee finally votes to send the legislation to the full council. But as always, the opportunity exists for tricky amendments to be added to the bill that would water down—or even completely defang—the secure scheduling legislation.

What can you do to help? You can make your voice heard, literally: come to Council chambers and show your support. Any Seattleite can testify before the City Council: all you have to do is show up before the hearing—9 a.m. or earlier would be best—and sign in on the checklist. Then, you’ll have a minute or two to voice your support. This is useful for two reasons: for one thing, it reminds the council that their constituents are invested in this legislation and want to see secure scheduling happen. For another thing,the longer that people speak, the less time there is for amendments to be discussed. It’s a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington kind of moment.

So if your schedule is free tomorrow, I hope to see you at City Hall (600 4th Ave) for the penultimate secure scheduling discussion. We are so close to passing secure scheduling into law and leading the way for the rest of the country. Like the $15 minimum wage, Seattle will stand as an example for other cities to emulate in years to come. When you speak for a minute or two tomorrow, you’re not just standing up for Seattle-area retail and food service employees who don’t have any control over their schedules—you’ll be speaking for the millions of employees around the country who will benefit from the success of secure scheduling in Seattle.

If you’ve felt exhausted over the last year at how little impact an individual can have in the political process, this is a chance to make a difference. On a local level, your voice has an outsize impact. Speak up for local workers and help Seattle lead the nation yet again in the battle for a stronger middle class.

New Study Shows Paid Sick Leave Has No Effect on Business Costs


As Washington state prepares to vote on Initiative 1433, which if passed would raise the state  minimum wage and enact paid sick and safe leave for all workers, we’ll likely hear the usual threats from business owners: providing sick leave for their employees will allegedly force them to cut benefits, hours, or even jobs. We heard these complaints five years ago from business owners before Seattle adopted its own sick leave law. We see this kind of thing whenever the people propose any kind of law that might benefit workers, of course: business owners loudly argue that their workers will suffer most of all, and they threaten total economic collapse.

But we now have a few years of data from cities that have enacted paid sick leave laws, so we can put those scary claims to the test. And guess what? As Slate’s Henry Grabar says, a New York City study shows that paid sick leave has pretty much no effect on business. Here’s the nut of it:

Their survey of 350 random New York businesses, stratified to appropriately represent different firm sizes, says: 85 percent of employers reported the law had no effect on business costs, 91 percent reported no reduction in hiring, 94 percent reported no effect on business productivity, and 96 percent reported no change in customer service.

That jibes with findings from other cities published by the U.S. Department of Labor in October. San Francisco has outperformed surrounding counties in job growth since the passage of its policy in 2007. Likewise, analyses of Seattle and Washington, D.C., found negligible impacts on hiring and business location. A ton of research has also shown that flexible leave policies have a positive effect on worker productivity, happiness, and health.

Huh. It’s almost as though business owners just don’t want to change because humans are uncomfortable with new things and would prefer to stick with the proven status quo, isn’t it?

But the thing is, Washington workers can’t afford to keep things the way they are. Sick and safe leave provides workers with a necessary sense of security that enables them to take care of themselves and their families without fear of missing a rent or car payment. And when food service and retail workers can stay home sick, that helps staunch the spread of disease, which is better for everyone in this state.

We made a whole podcast about the importance of paid sick leave; you should listen to it, and then you should vote yes on Initiative 1433 this November. You can be confident that when you vote for 1433 you’re not voting against business; you’re voting for a smart law that will improve life for everyone.