Mayors urge Renton voters to reject minimum wage initiative | Letters

Letter to the editor

The following is a letter written to the Renton News and signed by Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone, Former Renton Mayor Denis Law, and Former Renton Mayor Kathy Keolker:

Renton voters have a decision to make on Feb. 13 on an initiative that is more heavy-handed than meets the eye. The catchy slogan fails to inform you that the initiative goes well beyond wages and creates new labor regulations the city will be required to enforce for every employer operating in the city.

As your current and former mayors, we urge you to read beyond the slogan before you cast your vote.

Why is this so important that the three of us are writing to you now?

The initiative requires a simple majority of those casting a vote to pass and, if passed, could only be altered in the future by another vote of the people. In other words, to make any change or improve the regulations it imposes, it will be expensive and slow, eroding the resilience of our community.

We can agree that wages being increased will help our community. We value thoughtful decision-making over locking ourselves into the flawed initiative process.

From the vantage point of the mayor’s office, we’ve seen our community survive through some of the most challenging economic times of our generation. The Great Recession and the COVID pandemic demonstrated the value of being nimble, responsive, and able to pivot quickly to sustain through crises. We were able to act, through city council action, to adapt regulations to economic conditions in support of our businesses and residents. We will have less flexibility in our toolbox if this initiative passes.

So what would be made law on top of a nearly $4/hour jump overnight that businesses will have to absorb?

The initiative would impose new labor regulations mandating that employers prioritize part-time employees by offering them additional hours before considering new hires or subcontracting work. This would be required to be documented by the employer and certified by the city and failure to comply involves penalties and fines. In addition to these stringent hiring regulations, the initiative establishes protections against employer retaliation and opens the avenue for civil litigation in case of violations.

Will this solve the affordability crisis? No. Will this protect our workforce? No. Will this new regulatory function cost taxpayer dollars? Yes. In short: We believe that instead of yielding positive outcomes, this measure will inadvertently cause more harm than good.

Increased costs to the consumer and closely regulated operating requirements enforced by city government is not the recipe for a successful business.

The notion that mandates impacting local small businesses and nonprofits should be decided at the ballot initiative is extreme and warrants rejection. Renton is not Seattle or SeaTac and if you look closely, their situations haven’t improved since adopting their wage laws, which were far different than what you are being asked to consider.

A better approach is possible by working together, as a community. Addressing wages as a singular issue, through the City Council, is possible. Continuing to work toward affordable housing options and workforce development and education is possible. Supporting our businesses to remain viable, employing more of our residents, and continued investment in Renton is possible.

Don’t sit on the sidelines. Vote no on Initiative 23-02.