(The Center Square) – Seattle city employees are rallying for a new contract that provides equitable wages and benefits in the midst of higher inflation, while the city works to address a $221 million budget gap.
The Coalition of City Unions, which represents more than 6,000 city of Seattle employees, began contract negotiations in September 2022 and did not receive the city’s first economic proposal until March 2023. What was proposed was deemed “too little, too late,” by the Coalition of City Unions.
The coalition is seeking a contract that prioritizes what it calls “RSPCT,” which is an acronym for racial equity, safety, pay and affordability, climate justice and a work-life balance.
The Seattle Wage Dataset shows that as of January 2022, prior to contract negotiations, 26% of city employees made between $21.05 to $30.09 an hour.
During a rally outside Seattle City Hall on Tuesday, speakers emphasized an increase in pay for city workers as part of a new contract. Speakers also acknowledged the looming deficit facing the city, but demanded the city find other ways to balance the budget, rather than keeping city worker pay as is.
“The city leaders are trying to balance the budget on your back,” said Washington State Labor Council Political and Strategic Campaigns Director Cherika Carter at the rally.
According to the city, expenses are currently projected to grow by $547 million from 2022 to 2026, outpacing increases in revenue and leading to a projected $221 million budget deficit in 2025.
Despite the deficit, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s Office told The Center Square in an email that its approach to contract negotiations will continue to be rooted in the values that “every worker deserves a living wage.”
Jamie Housen, director of communications at the Seattle Mayor’s Office, said that the Seattle Municipal Code requires the city to maintain confidentiality toward ongoing negotiations.