by: Essex Porter Updated:
After an eleventh-hour Appeals Court decision, a $15-an-hour minimum wage initiative will appear on the November ballot in the City of SeaTac.
If passed, the initiative would increase the current $9.19-an-hour minimum wage for workers at the big transportation and hospitality companies around Sea-Tac Airport.
The Washington Court of Appeals decision came just 90 minutes before the deadline set by King County Elections officials.
They need to get the ballot to printers by Monday.
The measure had been certified for the ballot earlier, but then a King County judge removed it because of errors such as failing to put a date next to a signature.
"It's absolutely ridiculous," said Brian Smith, a SeaTac voter. "They're trying to take the vote out of the people's hands. They're trying to make sure that it never comes to a popular vote."
Another issue was duplicate signatures. When duplicate signatures were found, the original signatures were thrown out as well. That left the initiative 18 signatures short of the ballot.
"How does that make any sense?" asked Appeals Court Justice Stephen Dwyer, noting that a committee comprised of the SeaTac Mayor, City Manager and Police Chief and overruling the decision made by King County Elections officials.
Before the hearing, SeaTac lawyer Wayne Tanaka explained to reporters, "This city is trying to follow the law. That's all we can do. We have our code, for better or for worse. We have the law for better or for worse and that's what we are trying to do and as the city attorney said, the city has never taken any action to keep this off the ballot, never."
But he was cut off when he tried to make a similar point to Justice Dwyer, "What is up with that goofy ordinance?" the justice wanted to know.
Alaska Airlines is one of the leading opponents of the initiative. "We continue to share the concerns of residents and businesses in SeaTac that creating the nation's highest minimum wage of $15 an hour with a 63 percent pay raise would hurt them as well as the entry-level workers the initiative is intended to help," the airline said in a statement after the decision.