Sound Progress

Research and insights from Puget Sound Sage.

Election Analysis: How SeaTac’s Proposition 1 Succeeded Against Powerful, Corporate Opposition

SeaTac’s Proposition 1 established an early lead on election night, which is very likely to hold as the last ballots are counted. Although a recount is likely and a legal challenge from opponents is already in the works, the initiative has succeeded and will ultimately prevail because of a campaign that was able to demonstrate living wage jobs are not only good for workers, but good for the local/regional economy.

The initiative is poised to win having faced opposition from a campaign of politically powerful corporate interests. The opposition campaign was funded by Alaska Airlines, the National Restaurant Association, the American Car Rental Association and the Koch brothers-backed Freedom Foundation. These national corporate interests threw both their money and their weight into this local election.

Three things were core to the campaign to win the SeaTac Good Jobs Initiative:

Sound Research that Showed the Initiative Would Lead to Economic Growth. Economic impact analysis showed how worker spending will multiply under the initaitve, resulting in up to $54 million of increased income for the region and more than 400 new local jobs. It also showed how an increase in earnings and spending will mean more revenue for local governments to pay for improved infrastructure such as schools, parks and public safety.

The analysis authored by Howard Greenwich and Nicole Vallestero Keenan was front page news in the Seattle Times and shifted the debate over the economic impacts of the policy.

Support from Small Businesses. Despite a powerful corporate campaign that attempted to paint the initiative has harmful to small business (the policy included an exemption for small businesses) local businesses publicly backed the initiative. Don Liberty, owner of the Bull Pen Bar and Grill was a key spokesperson in favor of the initiative. Puget Sound Sage engaged local small business owners, including Don, to demonstrate why they supported workforce requirements and paid fair wages to their employees.

Support from Faith Communities. SeaTac is a small city where personal relationships matter, and support from a trusted friend, teacher, minister or neighbor, business owner will sway votes. Even before the initiative campaign began local ministers, imams and community groups convened by Sage organizers were coming together to support living wage jobs at SeaTac Airport.

Rev. Jan Bolerjack of Riverton Park United Methodist Church, became a critical voice for the campaign and a media star. Her story about how airport workers come to her church’s food bank wearing their airport uniforms became the moral story of Proposition 1 for SeaTac voters.

Author: David West

David West is the Executive Director of Puget Sound Sage. He has over 25 years experience in research, public policy, community organizing, and coalition-building experience. He previously led two local nonprofits, Washington Citizen Action, and the Center for a Changing Workforce. He has a Masters Degree in Public Administration/Public Policy from the Daniel J. Evans School at the University of Washington, and a BA in Economics from the University of Wisconsin.

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