OWLS October Meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 24, 6:30pm
Washington State Labor Council building
321 16th Ave S, Seattle (corner of S. Jackson and 16th Ave S.)
City of Seattle workers will report on new developments, plans for practice picketing and other measures to ratchet up heat on Mayor Bruce Harrell and city labor negotiators. OWLS members who attended a recent Labor Notes workshop will also share ideas learned there that can be of use in this contract fight and other labor battles erupting in the Puget Sound area.
_____________________________________________________________________ The statement below was handed out by OWLS members at city council hearings
It’s time for Mayor Bruce Harrell and the City Council to cease and desist with their anti-union antics, stalling and bad-faith wage offers for city workers. Bargain in good faith! Honor our city’s excellent workforce with living wages and fair contracts! City residents deserve fully-staffed, reliable public services that these workers provide.
City workers’ contracts will expire on Dec.31, but the city stalled negotiations for months. Mayor Bruce Harrell then announced an insulting offer of a 1% Cost-of-Living-Adjustment! Meanwhile, Seattle has seen a cumulative 21% rise in inflation in the last three years. (April 2020-April 2023 Consumer Price Index as reported by the Seattle Times.)
After the Coalition of City Unions bargaining team walked out of negotiations over this insulting offer, the City raised its offer to 2.5%. which is still effectively an 18.5% pay cut!
The Coalition then informed the mayor of their intention to hold a rally at City Hall. Mayor Harrell dismissed the idea, saying it would have no impact on him or the contract. “Rally your asses off!” he told them.
But when the Coalition moved ahead with the rally, the Mayor’s office sent the unions a “Cease and Desist” letter saying they would take legal action if union workers held a rally. The letter was filled with inaccurate claims – and was a clear intimidation tactic, which failed. Fifteen hundred workers and supporters showed up to rally at City Hall.
But the insulting COLA isn’t the only issue City workers face
- Many departments have 14% vacancy rates because the City can’t keep or attract workers. 160 job titles need market rate adjustments to offer competitive salaries.
- Seattle residents will continue to see the quality of services deteriorate because of these long-standing vacancies. City residents and workers have a common cause.
- City of Seattle workers need to earn enough money to live in Seattle. Many employees, especially the lowest paid – like admin assistants and cashiers, who are overwhelmingly female and people of color – commute long distances because they cannot afford Seattle rents.
- Outdoor workers need clear guidelines and more protection during heatwaves and wildfire smoke.
Workers are demanding their just due across the country
City workers in Portland, Oregon and in Los Angeles went on strike this year and won many of their demands. Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS) offered information at the Seattle city workers rally about public workers right to strike. That resonated with many at the rally who felt that city workers need to be prepared to take that step if the city continues to stall and put forward low-ball offers.
Unions and working-class demands have never had more public support than today. Now is the time to call for bold action. For instance, to address chronic understaffing and attrition, the City of San Juan recently agreed to a 32-hour/four-day work week at 40 hours pay. Nationally, striking United Auto Workers are raising that same demand.
Seattle is home to numerous corporate giants and has one of the highest concentrations of millionaires and billionaires in the country. Meanwhile, city workers are being pushed out of the city they serve. The mayor and city council need to get a backbone and start taxing corporations and the ultra-rich and put a stop to the ever-expanding wealth gap in our city. The money is there.
OWLS calls on the community and the broader labor movement to mobilize in support of Seattle city workers!
The Coalition of City Unions is organizing practice picketing in November at several City of Seattle worksites to show the mayor and city council they are making demands, not requests. Show your support by joining the practice picket lines. Ask your friends and neighbors to turn out. City workers already have the support of the community they serve. Now Mayor Harrell and the city council need to see that support.
We also urge community members to call or send emails to Mayor Bruce Harrell and the City Council demanding a fair contract for city workers. Go to “Contact the Mayor” on Seattle.gov or call 206-684-4000. Email the entire city council at firstname.lastname@example.org.