The city of SeaTac, which holds the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour starting January 1 for some businesses. Within weeks of the beginning of the SeaTac “experiment,” the impact of the passage of Proposition One had become evident. Despite the fact that the new law impacts only about 1,600 employees in this town of 27,000, major changes and shifts were already taking place in reaction to it.
For example, a customer using the Master Park Airport valet parking service at SeaTac will note an extra line on his bill for $.50 entitled “living-wage surcharge.” In December the 215-room Clarion Hotel closed its full-service restaurant, laying off 15 people. The hotel also terminated the employment of a night desk clerk and a maintenance employee, and according to general manager Harry Wall, the hotel was considering a 10-percent increase in room rates just in time for spring visitors. Wall said that without this reduction in workforce, the hotel’s annual payroll costs would have increased by $300,000 thanks to the new minimum-wage law.
WallyPark, an airport parking services that employs about 80 people at three different locations in SeaTac, is being flooded with applications from people outside the city looking to take advantage of the new law, claimed Homer Ignacio, the assistant manager. As these new applicants are interviewed, Ignacio will be faced with the prospect of being able to hire more highly skilled workers and pay them what he is paying some of his current less-skilled employees. Those present employees face the threat of having their jobs being taken away by a new employee.
Other adjustments are being made as the new law takes effect. According to Gary Smith, a spokesman for the opposition group Common Sense SeaTac, “a number of businesses made sure they fit the small business category [and were therefore exempt from the new law], even if they had to make adjustments to do that.” Those adjustments no doubt included reducing workforce numbers.