Council has built in ‘basic bias’ against the Seattle employer

Aug 10, 2016, 2:50 PM

Seattle employer...

Curley is opposed to adding even more government intervention in the employee-employer relationship. (AP)


Allow me to make a sweeping generalization: The elected officials who work in area government and on the Seattle City Council has never written their names on the right-hand column of a paycheck. These people making the rules have probably never had to hire, fire or meet payroll at the end of the month. They’re not a Seattle employer.

I say this because most of the rules and regulation they adopt are in favor of the employee as opposed to the employer. That’s specifically true with the Seattle council’s proposal for a sweeping law to protect workers from erratic schedules.

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The concept comes from a bunch of employees who have complained about the lack of turnaround time between shifts and the want for existing employees to be offered additional hours before new workers are hired.

Costing the Seattle employer

An example: They had me scheduled on a Monday to work until 11 p.m. and then have me scheduled on a Tuesday starting at 6 a.m. Thus, I’m not getting enough time to recover. So, reasonably, they want something like a 10-hour break.

If a Seattle employer can’t give them that, they’ve got to pay the employee something extra. Another proposal is to mandate that schedules are made two weeks in advance. If for some reason an employee is put on the schedule but ends up not being needed, the employer owes half of the hourly wage for each hour cut.

In other words, they want to make life more comfortable for the people who work.

But where is that money coming from? You have to produce. You have to flip 100 hamburgers in an hour. At the end of that time, you’ve sold those burgers, money comes into the till and you get a piece of that. Problem is, the city council is going to charge the employer extra because of a scheduling issue. I would love to find out I was kicked off the schedule and get paid.

What we will ultimately find is an unwanted third party hovering around this relationship: Employee, employer and government. The government is going to come in and look at the people who are working and will say, “Yeah, it is too difficult to get fewer hours of sleep so we’re going to try and make things fairer and better for you.”

Here’s the thing: Whenever you make work more difficult for employers — i.e. France – you will find a higher unemployment rate because it is harder fire, hire and run a business. If you were to have the city council take a look at the profit-loss statement of many of these businesses, they’d likely find the Seattle employer is making 2, 3, or 4 percent at the end of the year. Seattle elected officials always seem to assume that all employers are rich and that the employees are given no mercy. But if they looked and saw how much money many of these business owners actually make at the end of the year, maybe they would be more sympathetic. Instead, they have this basic bias built in that the employee is good and the employer is bad.

KIRO Radio’s resident historian Feliks Banel thinks my characterization is over the top.

“Why would they be anti-business?” he asked me. “The city would collapse without businesses.”

My answer: This city is lucky that the engine itself is so strong and dynamic that it can put up with the barnacles of the city government. It’s almost like a giant ship, with the engine so large that even with all the crud hanging on the bottom of the boat, it’s still able to crank along.

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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Council has built in ‘basic bias’ against the Seattle employer