After a year of bargaining, Coalition of City Unions demands fair contractThe following is from the Coalition of City Unions:
SEATTLE (Sept. 20, 2023) — More than 1,000 city workers, community members, and political leaders rallied Tuesday on the steps of Seattle City Hall and then marched along 4th Ave. to Westlake Park to mark one year of difficult and contentious contract negotiations with the City of Seattle.
At the Rally for #RSPCT — organized by the Coalition of City Unions (CCU), a group of 16 unions representing nearly 6,000 city workers — attendees stood in solidarity to demand an equitable contract with provisions to ensure safe workplaces, and wages that keep up with the cost of living.
Relative to inflation, the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for City of Seattle employees has not kept pace, lagging 5.7 percent between 2015 and 2023 — a relative pay cut. Meanwhile, private sector wage growth in the city has nearly matched inflation. The median income for city workers in the CCU is currently $75,000, with half — often women and workers of color — earning far below that rate.
“To keep up with the cost of living, inflation, and the lack of COLA, I have had to work a second job on the weekends along with my full-time job here at the City,” said Dominique Ingram, who works as an Administrative Specialist at Seattle Municipal Court. “So I’ve worked seven days a week since the pandemic, and the only days off that I’ve had are government holidays.”
City employees have also moved out of the city because they cannot afford to live in Seattle. According to membership data collected by one union in the Coalition, from the period of 2019 to 2023, 8.7 percent of members who work for the City of Seattle moved outside of the city limits, bringing the total percentage to just 42.9 percent who live in the city they serve.
“As an engineer, my salary and my co-workers’ salaries have fallen so far behind that we cannot fill vacancies because people can get better jobs in the private sector or in better paying municipalities,” said Rachael Brooks, an Engineer at Seattle City Light. “I also recently moved to Snohomish County to help my parents, and made the decision to stay because I just can’t afford to spend the majority of my salary on rent in the city I love.”
In August, union negotiators walked out of a contract bargaining session after City negotiators continually refused to budge from their offer of a one percent COLA, first proposed back in March 2023. In the following session, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell made an unusual appearance and promised to do better, but the Unions and City still remain far apart. The contract expired on Dec. 31, 2022.
“Labor needs to be a priority for the City of Seattle,” said Monte Anderson, President of the Seattle Building Trades. “Union workers are the foundation of this City, and it’s time the City recognizes this fact and compensates accordingly.”
The historical rally is part of the CCU’s campaign for #RSPCT: Racial Equity, Safety, Pay/Affordability, Climate Justice, and Time/Work-Life Balance. Lining the steps and street outside Seattle City Hall, attendees chanted and cheered for a fair contract now, and listened to community and political leaders lend their support to the cause.
“We Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the labor movement stand with City of Seattle workers who are standing up to ensure that their families can survive and thrive,” said Ligaya Domingo, President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). “We stand in solidarity to ensure that City of Seattle workers get a contract that works for all workers, whether we are Black, Brown, Asian, or white and no matter what job workers do. All jobs are critical and we must ensure that we are able to retain all workers in their jobs.”
Teresa Mosqueda, Seattle City Councilmember and candidate for King County Council, also spoke at the rally: “I am proud to stand with city workers in their fight for a fair contract. They are not only fighting for wages and improved working conditions, they’re fighting to ensure the city continues to address our housing crisis, our affordability crisis, our climate crisis. Inflation remains at record highs and middle class families are struggling to make ends meet. They’re fighting to ensure that Seattle works for working people.”
Other speakers at the rally included Cherika Carter, Secretary-Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, Katie Garrow, Executive Secretary of MLK Labor, and several union executive directors, city workers, and members of the negotiating team.
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