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Money Pours in From Both Sides of SeaTac Minimum Wage Fight

Ashley Gross

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have poured into both sides of a heated controversy over a proposed minimum wage hike in the city of SeaTac. 

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday denied an appeal by Alaska Airlines and other business groups seeking to keep the living-wage ordinance off the November ballot.

The initiative would set a minimum wage of $15 per hour for hospitality and transportation workers in and around Sea-Tac Airport.

Business groups have raised $250,000 to fight it, and have about $100,000 left on hand. The big bucks have been coming in from car rental and parking companies, restaurant and lodging associations, and Alaska Airlines.

The supporters of the initiative have raised $330,000, and have about $70,000 left to spend. Much of it has come in the form of staff time from labor groups like the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters.

"For labor groups, it’s not just about SeaTac," said Todd Donovan, a political scientist at Western Washington University. "You’re trying to push opinion and get visibility for the issue beyond just there."

The minimum wage fight comes at a time when income inequality is in the news almost daily and fast-food workers have been staging walkouts.

Donovan says business groups want to quash this initiative so that the idea of higher minimum-wage laws doesn’t spread elsewhere.

No matter what, SeaTac’s 11,662 voters are in for a noisy campaign season. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.