Seattle taxpayers stuck paying to defend unfair $15-hour min wage

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Washington Lodging Association (WLA)

Seattle taxpayers forced to fund expensive outside counsel for city attempt to defend discrimination

SEATTLE, July 8, 2014 – The City of Seattle’s decision to hire expensive outside legal counsel to try to defend its discriminatory actions against small businesses in the recently adopted minimum wage ordinance should outrage every taxpaying resident and business, according to Jan Simon, President and CEO of the Washington Lodging Association (WLA).

Last week the City announced it had hired Susman Godfrey, a Texas law firm with offices in Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City and Seattle, and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, to assist in its defense of the ordinance.

“As a Seattle taxpayer I am flabbergasted and disappointed that the Mayor and City Council believe it is appropriate to hire an outside law firm charging a reported $1,100 an hour to defend the blatantly discriminatory sections of the ill-conceived ordinance,” said Simon.

Under the City ordinance, businesses with fewer than 500 employees, except franchisees, have seven years to reach $15 an hour. Those with 500 or more – and franchisees, regardless of how many people they employ – have only three years, or four if they provide health insurance.

The Seattle statute unfairly requires Seattle’s 600 franchisees, which own 1,700 franchise locations and employ 19,000 workers, to meet the three-year deadline for large businesses simply because they operate as part of a franchise network. The Seattle ordinance defies years of legal precedent clearly defining a franchisee as an independent local business owner who operates separately from the corporation that provides brand and marketing materials. Hundreds of small locally owned businesses and thousands of their employees are unfairly threatened by Seattle’s new law.

“This adds insult onto injury, as some of the money to pay the exorbitant legal fees to try to defend the indefensible will come from the very people and businesses who are discriminated against,” Simon said. “If the City Attorney’s office drafted the ordinance, why can’t it defend it in court?” ”

The WLA Board of Directors has announced it opposes the franchise language in the City’s recently adopted wage ordinance and supports the lawsuit filed against the City in federal court by five Seattle franchisees and the International Franchise Association. The WLA notes that family-owned hotels with significantly fewer than 500 employees make up the vast majority of the industry.

In Washington, nearly 80 percent of lodging establishments are affiliated with a franchise or brand, including two WLA members who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and would be considered large employers under the new ordinance. The American Hotel & Lodging Association – the lodging industry’s national association – also supports the Seattle franchisee lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones of the Western District of Washington will hear the case.

For more information about the lawsuit and the coalition of small business owners working together to oppose the franchisee provisions in the city’s minimum wage law, go to

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Posted by at 02:51 | Posted in Employment, Government Regulation, Jobs | 11 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Guest

    Yes they will use tax payers money to continue the assault on small business. Just continued bad policy decisions.

    • MrBill97702

      Sure small businesses will suffer, but so will everyone including the City gov’t that passed it in the first place. Ultimately they’re assaulting themselves. The little guys are just collateral damage.

  • Bob Clark

    I guess the most disturbing element is the sharp increase in the minimum wage from less than $10 to $15 all in one big stroke of the governmental pen. For those believing in pixie dust, it feels good reportedly; but for those with a real world logical sense, you know there are going to be negative displacements; those so easily brushed aside by labor unions including public employee unions seeking actually to have a bargaining chip for raising their own elevated pay scales.

  • Jack Lord God

    The good news is if the city decides on a different DA, the law can be rendered void. All the DA has to do is disagree with it, not defend it on that basis, and poof, bye bye law. Eric Holder does this, Obama does it, DA’s around the country do it. You don’t like a law? Get a different DA. We are a nation of men now, not law. The law is dependent upon the whim of the individual. That has consequences. Any law you don’t like, get a DA in office who won’t defend it. Done.

    • guest

      And if that’s not enough ‘snuff’ – then take a sarong whiff of Kitzhaber anointment, OR AG, Helen Rosenblum for bosun’s mate.

  • Jack Lord God

    What would be refreshing is if those who truly supported a $15 minimum wage would insist on it’s immediate enactment, rather than a phase in to obscure the consequences of their actions. If a $15 min wage truly boosts the economy, one would think they would agree to this and get the economy at full steam right away. The phase in reveals that they don’t think anything of the kind however.

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